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Introduction xvii 


John Adams 83 

Samuel Adams 67 

Josjah Bartlett 168 

Carter Braxton 748 

Charles Carroll 623 

Samuel Chase 580 

Abraham Clark 331 

George Clymer 455 

William Ellery 206 

William Floyd 261 

Benjamin Franklin 393 

Elbridge Gerry 144 

Button Gwinnett 819 

Lyman Hall 825 

Iohn Hancock 53 

Benjamin Harrison 716 

John Hart 323 

Joseph Hewes ./*V68 

Thomas Heyward 793 

William Hooper 758 

Stephen Hopkins 195 

Francis Hopkinson 317 

Samuel Huntington 243 

Thomas Jefferson 


Francis Lightfoot Lee 745 

Richard Henry Lee 642 

Francis Lewis 276 

Philip Livingston 266 

Thomas Lynch. 


Arthur Middleton go9 

Thomas M'Kean ^i 

Lewis Morris ggo 

Robert Morris 33$ 

John Morton 449 

Thomas Nelson . 


William Paca 602 

Robert Treat Paine 132 

John Penn 776 

George Read 547 

CffiSAR Rodney 529 

George Ross 523 

Benjamin Rush 378 

Edward Rutledge 781 

Roger Sherman 222 

James Smith 495 

Richard Stockton 2S8 

Thomas Stone 612 

George Taylor 491 

Matthew Thornton 187 

George Walton 828 

William Whipple 178 

William Williams 2-19 

James Wilson 499 

John Witherspoon 296 

Oliver Wolcott 254 

George Wythe 633 


Residence of John Hancock, Boston, Massachusetts 53 

Residences of Robert Morris and General Washington, Philadelphia, Pa 336 

Portrait of Lewis Morris 282 

Residence of Dr. B. Rush, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 378 

Birthplace of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Boston, Mass.; and Tomb, Philada., Pa. 393 

Residence of Samuel Chase, Baltimore, Maryland 580 

Residence of James Wilson, called "Fort Wilson," Philadelphia, Pa 499 

Residence of John Morton, Delaware County, Pennsylvania 449 

Residence of George Ross, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 523 

Residence of William Hooper, Wilmington, North Carolina 758 

Burial-place of Joseph Hewes, of North Carolina (Christ Church, Philada.)... 768 

Residence of Richard Stockton, Princeton, New Jersey 288 

Residence of John Penn, Grandville, North Carolina 776 

Residence of John Witherspoon, Mercer County, New Jersey 296 

Residence of William Paca, Queenstown, Maryland 602 

Residence of Francis Hopkinsou, Bordentowu, New Jersey 317 

Residence of Thomas Stone, Port Tobacco, Maryland 612 

The Church built by John Hart, Hopewell, New Jersey 323 

Residence of George Taylor, Easton, Pennsylvania 491 

Residence of Abraham Clark, Blizabethtown, New Jersey 331 

Portrait of William Floyd 261 

The Duel between Button Gwinnett and Lackland Mcintosh 819 

Tomb of Philip Livingston, York, Pennsylvania 266 

Portrait of Lyman Hall 825 

Portrait of Francis Lewis 276 

Portrait of George Walton 828 

Birthplace of Francis Lightfoot Lee and Richard Henry Lee, Leesburg, Va. . 745 

Residence of Carter Braxton, Newington, Virginia 748 

Residence of Benjamin Harrison, Berkeley, Virginia 716 

Residence of Caesar Rodney. Dover, Delaware 529 

Residence of Thomas Nelson, Jr., Yorktown. Virginia 730 


Residence of George Read, with Portrait, New Castle, Delaware 547 

Residence of Matthew Thornton, Derry, New Hampshire 187 

Residence of Thomas McKean, Philadelphia 561 

Monument to Stephen Hopkins, Providence, Rhode Island 195 

Residence of Edward Rutledge, Charleston, South Carolina 781 

Portrait of William Ellery 206 

Residence of Roger Sherman, New Haven, Connecticut 222 

Residence of Thomas Heyward, Charleston, South Carolina 793 

Portrait, &c, and autograph signature of Thomas Lynch, Jr 801 

Residence of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, near Baltimore, Maryland 623 

Residence of Arthur Middleton, near Charleston, South Carolina 809 

Residence of George Clymer, Philadelphia 455 

Portrait of George Wythe, of Virginia 633 

Residence of James Smith, York, Pennsylvania 475 

Residence of Samuel Huntington, Norwich, Connecticut 243 

Residence of William Williams, Lebanon, Connecticut 249 

Portrait of Richard Henry Lee 642 

Portrait of Josiah Bartlett 168 

Residence of Oliver Wolcott, Litchfield, Connecticut 254 

Residence of William Whipple. Portsmouth, New Hampshire 178 

The Birthplaces of John and John Quincy Adams, at Quincy, Massachusetts 83 

Portrait of Samuel Adams .- 67 

Portrait of Robert Treat Paine, of Massachusetts 132 

Residence of Thomas Jefferson, Monlicello, Virginia 665 

Residence of Elbridge Gerry, Cambridge, Massachusetts 144 


A new edition, with additions, of this well-known book is offered 
to the public, with a sincere desire that it will assist to heal up the 
wounds that have scarcely ceased bleeding during the last four years 
of war. 

The Union that these honest patriots made in 1776 was not of that 
thorough character which Hamilton and his school desired; it was 
only partial— more in name than in reality — and it remained for this 
rebellious war to materially, let us hope entirely, correct. The prin- 
ciple of State Eights commenced with the formation of the Colonies; 
it grew with them for nearly two centuries; and could it be expected 
that in a revolt against their parent country, to whom they showed 
great attachment, they would at once merge their liberties into a 
central government and ignore their previous colonial rights? It 
could scarcely be expected that a nation so fond of traditions and so 
jealous of change would do so. The "Signers" knew the full meaning 
of their various instructions. Many of them would have made a 
stronger government if they could have clone so; but they saw that 
the old colonial rights of State government must be incorporated with 
the new Constitution, though it would not be so strong as they desired. 
The opposition of the Federalists against the Jeft'ersonian school was 
for a number of years of the bitterest kind; but at last the Federalists 
changed their tactics, and to a great extent their opinions. The 
relations of the States since the termination of this war have been 
materially modified in spirit, though not in form. So delicate is the 
question of State Eights, that it is but fair to presume that though 
this war has, to a great extent, originated in this question, j'et the fear 
of centralization is so great that the General Government will not 
disturb the present relations it holds — its additional power — which is 
infinitely greater than it ever was, in spirit, though not in form. 

I shall introduce into this new edition illustrations which have not 
appeared in anjr previous one, but which have appeared only in the 
"Book of the Signers." 

An historical account of these illustrations will, for the first time, 
appear in this edition ; and it is to be hoped that these ephemera, 


collected from various sources while engaged in procuring these illus- 
trations, will assist in filling up some historic niches. 

The new matter relating to John Hart will be appreciated by the 
American student. In this place we desire to correct an error in 
regard to John Hart. In the "Book of the Signers" is an illustration 
of a church at Hopewell, N. J., in which I there state that this church 
was built by John Hart. He did not build the church, but he gave 
the ground on which it is erected. 

I tender my acknowledgments to General John Meredith Read, 
Junior, of Albany, N. Y., for the original and very concise memoir 
of George Bead, of whom he is an honored descendant; also for the 
new view of the residence of George Read, and new portrait, which has 
been engraved expressly for this edition. This portrait of George 
Read is from the burin of S. Sartain, the "Cousins" of America. 


Residence of John and John Quincy Adams. 

The house in which these two great men were born is still standing 
at Quincy, Massachusetts, and this State — ever proud of her sons — 
will honor it, it is hoped, forever. 

Residence of Elbridge Gerry, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
This house is in good repair, and is now occupied by that distin- 
guished poet, James Russell Lowell. 

Residence of W. Whipple, Portsmouth, N. II. 

This residence I had photographed by the kindness of its present 
occupant, and let us trust it will be remembered as a sacred landmark 
by the people of Portsmouth. 

Residence of Matthew Thornton, Derry, N. H. 

This house is still standing. I had it photographed in 1860, and it 
retains all that stern simplicity which was characteristic of the old 
colonial days. 

Monument to Stephen Hopeins, Providence, R. I. 

Rhode Island has done herself infinite honor in erecting a monu- 
ment to so good and pure a man. 

It is to be regretted that but few States have erected any monu- 
ment to the signers of each State. 

Residence of Roger Sherman, New Haven, Connecticut. 

Among the most pleasing facts which an historian has to narrate, 
connected with persons, is that the person rose from humble rank. 
This residence of a once poor shoemaker has an air of comfort and 
coziuess distinctive of American life. 

Residence of Samuel Huntingdon, Norwich, Connecticut. 

This residence is pleasantly situated, and surrounded with trees, 
making it quite picturesque, the usual accompaniments of a country 


Residence of Wm. Williams, Lebanon, Connecticut. 
A plain, simple, two-storied house, designed, evidently, for comfort 
and not for ornament. 

Residence of Oliver Wolcott, South Street, Lichfield, Conn. 
This house is very prettily situated; it has a chaste portico, with 
strong and convenient out-buildings. 

Birthplace of Francis Lightfoot Lee and Richard Henry Lee, 
Leesburg, Virginia. 

A fine commodious house, filled with historic interest. The name 
of Lee will ever be associated with the darkest page of Virginia's his- 
tory. Every true and loyal man might shed a tear when he thinks of 
one of her ablest sons fighting against that government which honored 

Residence of Richard Stockton, Princeton, N. J. 
This view I had photographed. The house is in a fine state of pre- 
servation, and is highly prized by the family. 

Residence of John Witherspoon, Mercer County, N. J. 

This view of the house I had photographed. It is a roomy, conve- 
nient house; it is highly valued by the residents, and it is hoped that 
no sacrilegious hand will ever deface its beauty. 

Residence of Francis Hopkinson, Bordentown, N. J. 

This house was also photographed for me. It is a strong, substan- 
tial building, without any special claims to beauty. It is still occupied 
by the Hopkinson family, who are proud of their lineage. 

Hopewell Church, Hopewell, N. J. 

The ground on which this church is built, at Hopewell, N. J., was 
given by John Hart. It is strange that neither portrait nor residence 
of John Hart is known to be in existence ; all that is connected with 
his memory is the above illustration, and a monument which has just 
been finished and erected to his memory by a few of his admirers at 
Hopewell, N. J. 

Residence of Abraham Clark, Elizabethtown, N. J. 

This view was photographed for me. It is one of those old- 
fashioned country-houses, more remarkable for room than elegance of 


Residence of Geo. Washington and E. Morris, south-east corner 
of Sixth and Market Streets, Philadelphia. 

These two fine, roomy residences were pulled down some years ago. 
The building on the corner, which was occupied by E. Morris, was 
afterwards used as the Schuylkill Bank, which collapsed some time 
ago, and this building was torn down about fifteen years since, and on 
its place was erected another building, which is now occupied as a 
clothing store. It is proper to state here that part of the house which 
is here shown as the one where Washington lived, is still standing, 
and forms part of the store which is now erected on its former site. 
My obliging friend, C. A. Poulson, Esq., whose love for local lore is 
so well known, sketched, at my request, from his memory, the annexed 

Eesidence of Dr. B. Rush, No. 38 S. Fourth Street, Philadelphia. 

This residence, formerly known as the "Shipper! Mansion," having 
previously belonged to that well-known family, is no more. This view 
was sketched from memory, at my request, by C. A. Poulson, Esq., 
and thus saved from oblivion. The celebrated Dr. Eush died here. 

Residence of Bent. Franklin, and Place of Burial. 

The house in which Benj. Franklin was born is a quaint old build- 
ing, and very picturesque. Boston, that gave him birth, can very 
proudly claim him as one of her noblest sons. The burial-place at 
the corner of Fifth and Arch was sketched for me by an artist whose 
name I forget. It is one of the best views that can be given. It is 
but a few years since the wall was taken down, and a new iron 
palisading put up in its place, so that passers-by can stop and see the 
place where the mortal remains of Benjamin Franklin lie. 

Eesidence of John Morton, Delaware County, Pa. 

This picturesque house is still standing, and was photographed for 
me as it is represented. The Morton family still occupy it, and feel 
a proper family pride in this honored name. 

Eesidence of George Clymer, Chestnut St. near Seventh, Philada. 

This view was sketched from memory by my respected friend C. A. 
Poulson, Esq., and has, like the rest of his sketches, been endorsed by 
numbers of our old inhabitants as correct in every respect. I can- 
not be too thankful for these kindnesses, to Mr. Poulson, and I trust 
the public will appreciate my efforts, as I do his, in presenting them 
as they are now sketched. 


Eesidenoe of James Wilson, "Fort Wilson," south-west corner of 
Third and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia. 

I am again indebted to the pen of Mr. Poulson for this view. It 
was called "Fort Wilson," because of Judge Wilson and others pro- 
tecting themselves from a mob that attacked them. 

Residence of James Smith, 78 S. George Street, York, Pa. 

This sketch was drawn for me by an old inhabitant of York, who 
knew James Smith well. The smaller building was his law office. It 
is not a very artistic production, but it is the best I could get. 

Eesidence of George Taylor, Easton, Pa. 

This residence was sketched for me by a citizen of the town; it is 
still standing, and is highly honored by the people. 

Eesidence of George Ross, Lancaster, Pa. 

This house was pulled down in 1852, but I was very fortunate 
in procuring a Daguerreotype of it, from which this view is engraved. 
The property, which was owned by G. Ross, is still held by some 
branches of the family, who entertain a profound respect for so illus- 
trious an ancestor. 

Residence of Cesar Rodney, Dover, Delaware. 

This residence, as it now stands, was photographed for me, and I 
can only regret that the State of Delaware allows such a house to be 
in so dilapidated a condition. The State ought not to allow this, but 
should preserve it for all time. 

Residence of George Read, New Castle, Del. 

This residence has been sketched from memory by some of the 
members of the Read family, and is said to be an excellent and cor- 
rect view. The drawing has been done under the superintendence of 
General John Meredith Read, Junior, of Albany, who is well 
known, and contributes to this edition a new life of his ancestor. 

Residence of Thomas McKean, S. Third Street, Philada. 

This house was pulled down some years ago, but the view has been 
preserved by our local historian, J. F. Watson. It was formerly oc- 
oupied by the Rev. Mr. Duche', who figured so conspicuously in the 
Revolution as Chaplain to Congress. 


Residence of Judge Samuel Chase, Baltimore, Md. 

This spacious and handsome residence is worthy of one of the oldest 
sons of Maryland. This sketch was sent to me by one who knew it 

Eesidence of Wm. Paca, Queenstown, Md. 

This residence is still standing, and is in possession of the family. 
The view is taken from a photograph taken for me, and is, in every 
sense of the word, a residence fit for a gentleman. 

Eesidence of Thomas Stone, Port Tobacco, Md. 

This view I had photographed. The house is spacious, roomy, and 
picturesquely situated on the road near Port Tobacco, and close to the 
banks of the Potomac. It is still owned and occupied by the Stone 

Eesidence of Charles Carroll, near Baltimore, Md. 

This house, in style and construction, is worthy of such a great man 
as Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. He was among the most distin- 
guished and wealthy men of his day, and one of the proudest and 
wealthiest of an English family sought his daughter's hand in marriage. 

Eesidence of Thomas Nelson, Yorktown, Va. 

This edifice is still standing, unless the ravages of this war have 
levelled it to the ground, which we are not aware of. Poor Yorktown ! 
It has passed through two wars, the last the most bloody and import- 
ant to the interests of the world. 

Eesidence of Carter Braxton, Newington, Va. 

This plain, simple country dwelling is still standing, or was in 1861, 
when I had it photographed. I ardently hope ruthless war has not 
destroyed it. 

Christ Church, Philadelphia. 

There being no residence known of Joseph LIewes, I selected this, 
his burial place, as the most suitable illustration, and also because of 
its being the most classic historic church in the country. 

Eesidence of John Penn, Granville, N. C. 

This sketch was sent to me by a resident there, and is believed to 
be as near accurate as memory can give. 


Kesidenoe of Edwaud Rutledge, Charleston, S. C. 

This view was given to me by Dr. Holbrook, who married one of 
the daughters of E. Rutledge, and unless the severe bombardment of 
this war has destroyed it, it still . ranks as one of the first houses of 
this sad city. Alas! what a change! Ilere, in this very house, assem- 
bled not only the elite of Charleston, but of the whole country around. 

Residence of Thomas Heyward, Charleston, S. C. 

This house was photographed for me by one of the family in 1860, 
and unless the guns of Gen. Gillmore have defaced or destroyed it, 
it still stands, the honored remains of a ouce wealthy family. 

Thomas Lynch, Junior. 

There is less known of this Signer than of any other. Not a letter 
of his is known to be in existence, nor does any one know the house 
where he lived, or where he was born. It is known that he went to 
sea for the benefit of his health, and there it is supposed he met with 
a watery grave. All that is known to be left of his handwriting is 
his signature on his books which were left, belonging to his library, 
and his signature to the Declaration of Independence. In the absence 
of his residence, I instructed Mr. Ferris, an able artist, to furnish the 
accompanying design. He was in both the infantry and cavalry, and 
hence the designs. The ship is typical of how he met with his death. 
The State Arms are those of his native State, Georgia. 

Residence of Arthur Middleton, eighteen miles from Charleston, 
S. C. 

This spacious country residence I had photographed through the 
family, and I presume it still stands as the property of one of the best 
and oldest families of this State. 

Button Gwisnett. 

As the place of his birth, or where he resided, seems lost in ob- 
scurity, I instructed Mr. Ferris to furnish the accompanying design, 
as it seems, from all that is known of him, to have been the most 
prominent act of his life, sad and melancholy as it ended. 

N. B. Remarks on the Illustrations which are here omitted, have previously appeared 
in some other work. 


The " Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence," 
though, with the modesty which characterised its author, given to the 
public anonymously, is known to have been the production of the late 
John Sanderson, Esq. The biographer could have found no subject 
more worthy of his powers, nor the subject an abler biographer. His 
classical attainments, his profound research, his original and sprightly 
genius, and, more than all, a patriotism upon which his country and her 
glory were reflected without a distorting partizan tint, peculiarly fitted him 
for the high and holy task of garnering up, and transmitting to a grateful 
posterity, the virtues of those who rocked the cradle of an infant empire. 
The result of his protracted and enlightened labours needs now no commen- 
dation ; it is universally, and with just admiration, appreciated, and will 
advance in value and reputation as time obliterates the scattered recollec- 
tions and records of those whose memory embalm his pages. 

The original Biography, however, comprising five octavo volumes, has 
been found too voluminous and expensive for general circulation ; and 
the publishers, aware of the general demand for an abridged and popular 
work on a subject so interesting to every American, determined to pre- 
sent the public with a single volume which should contain the substance 
and spirit of the original. It is sincerely regretted that this task was not 
accomplished by the amiable and gifted author of the Lives of the Signers, 
before his lamented demise. It has, however, been the object of the edi- 
tor to retain as much, and change as little, of the original as possible. 
Its unnecessary and fruitless boughs have been lopped off; but it is be- 
lieved that neither its usefulness, interest, nor symmetrical and classic 
beauty have been impaired. The portions omitted are documentary evi- 
dences, the details which belong rather to history than to biography, the 
somewhat tedious accounts of the ancestry of the Signers, and the frequent 
historical repetitions incident to an account of so large a number of actors 
in a single drama. In the biographical narrative, though useless and 
uninteresting details have been dropped or abbreviated, the main action, 
if we may so express ourselves, has been left untouched in volume and 
character, being retained, generally in the elegant diction of the author. 
The pruning-knife has been used oftener than the pen ; and it may, 



indeed, be doubted whether, by the excision of lifeless details and ela- 
borate reflections, the spirit and interest of the work are not heightened, 
while the biography is compressed within a compass which renders it 
accessible to every American reader. 

The genius, virtues, and sacrifices of the "Signers" — are they not 
graven on every American heart ? The editor will not presume to praise 
them. Their eulogy has been exhausted ; for the noblest intellects of the 
land have been ambitious to win the fame of successful panegyrists. Sim- 
ply, as the founders of a structure upon which the startled world looks 
with admiring awe, as the authors of a movement which promises to em- 
brace the family of the world within the holy influences of gentle justice, 
and peaceful right to all men — their names are star-like. But a careful 
review of their biography affords aggregate facts elucidating the character 
of the congress of '76, as a body, which, it is believed, no writer upon 
the subject, however painstaking, has had the patience to embody. We 
deem no apology necessary for presenting some of the results of such an 
investigation to our readers ; for the inquiry is not curious merely : in 
learning under what influences American liberty germinated and grew, 
we may be taught how to nurture and sustain it. 

The birth-place of the Signers, as the natal home of liberty, is an inter- 
esting inquiry. They were all natives of the soil, with the exception of eight, 
who had immigrated in youth or early manhood. Among the exceptions, 
we find the revered names of Robert Morris, Witherspoon, and Wilson. 
Of those born in America, the birth-place of sixteen was in the eastern, 
fourteen in the middle, and eighteen in the southern, colonies. It should 
be remembered, however, that the representation was unequal, various, 
and almost accidental. Congress voted by colonies, and the number of 
colonial representatives did not affect the result. The birth-place of the 
Signers may be given as follows. — Of the European signers, two were 
from England, three from Ireland, two from Scotland, and one from 
Wales ; in all eight. The majority of these, were among the earliest 
and more ardent of the advocates of independence. Of those born in this 
country, one was a native of Maine ; nine of Massachusetts ; two of Rhode 
Island ; four of Connecticut ; three of New York ; four of New Jersey ; 
five of Pennsylvania ; two of Delaware ; five of Maryland ; nine of Vir- 
ginia ; and four of South Carolina. 

The education of that distinguished body is equally worthy the curiosity 
of the philosophic student. It may be doubted whether any popular po- 
litical body has comprised so large a proportion of highly educated mem- 
bers. The number of those who had regularly graduated in the colleges 
of Europe or America was twenty-seven, or nearly one half the whole 
number. To the honour of Harvard it should be mentioned, that seven 


of the Signers came from that venerable institution. Twenty other mem- 
bers may be named whose education, though not regularly collegiate, was 
either academic, or, by dint of unaided energy, as in the case of Frank- 
lin, was equal or superior to the ordinary course of the universities. Nine 
of the members only of that august body can be set down as of ordinary 
and plain education ; though in that number are included men of exten- 
sive reading, enlightened views, and enlarged sagacity. The congress 
did not contain one uneducated member. 

As further evidence of the enlightened character of these fathers of the 
republic, it should be stated, that many of them visited Europe and stu- 
died, at the fountain head, the principles of British constitutional liberty. 
Of the fifty-six members, twenty-five trod the soil, and studied the insti- 
tutions, of the mother country. Some were born hi Great Britain, many 
were educated there, and many visited it before or after the declaration. 
There is no movement on record to which so large an amount of political 
science, observation, wisdom, and experience was brought to bear, as in 
the American revolution. 

The condition in life of most of the Signers was such as to dispel all 
suspicion of selfish motives in their action. Many of them were among 
the most affluent, as Hancock, Carroll, Morris, and others, who staked 
all upon the contest ; the majority were possessed of an ample compe- 
tence ; and with the exception of Samuel Adams, " the poor gentleman," 
and a few others, all had, besides life, something to lose, and nothing but 
liberty to gain, from the conflict which they invoked. 

The pursuits in life of the members of the congress afford some indica- 
tion of their character and social position, and those of the classes and in- 
terests which they represented. The inquiry may dispel some unworthy 
prejudices as to classes. Nearly one half, to wit, twenty-four, of the 
Signers, were members of the legal profession, a body of whom it may be 
said, that they have been the original assertors and most faithful cham- 
pions of constitutional liberty in all countries. Thirteen of the Signers 
were planters or farmers, the former being rather affluent land proprietors 
than practical agriculturists. Nine were merchants ; five, physcians ; two 
mechanics ; one a clergyman ; one a mariner ; and one a surveyor. Many 
of these were engaged in mingled pursuits, and nearly all, were more or 
less interested in agriculture. It will be seen that a considerable majority 
were professional men. 

The congress of independence exhibited a singularly just representation 
of the different stages of human life. Its youngest member was twenty- 
seven, its oldest, seventy, years of age. The mass of its members were 
in the most vigorous season of life — forty-two out of the fifty-six being 
between the ages of thirty and fifty years. The ages of the Signers, at the 


date of the Declaration may be briefly stated as follows: From twerity- 
five to thirty years of age, three ; from thirty to thirty-five, eleven ; from 
thirty-five to forty, ten ; from forty to forty-five, ten ; from forty-five to 
fifty, ten ; from fifty to fifty-five, three ; from fifty-five to sixty, two ; 
from sixty to sixty-five, four ; from sixty-live to seventy, two. The oldest 
member was the venerable Franklin, who was then in his seventy-first 
year; and the youngest was the ardent Rutledge, who was but twenty- 
seven. The average age of the Signers, in July 1776, was forty-three 
years and ten mo'nths. To this combination of the ardour of youth with 
the vigour of matured manhood and the caution of experienced age, may 
we ascribe the enterprise, energy, and wisdom of those councils which 
elicited the splendid eulogium of Chatham, secured for a feeble people 
the confidence of timid sovereignties, and founded a republic whose pre- 
sence occupies nearly half a hemisphere, and whose shadow is thrown 
over the world. 

An inquiry into the history of the Signers subsequently to the Declara- 
tion, exhibits truths over which all who rejoice in the dignity of man must 
exult. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour ; 
and not one was false to the pledge — not one! They suffered much; 
some died from hardships encountered, some were imprisoned, many 
were impoverished, and all were tempted by promises, and menaced by 
the wrath of what seemed, for a time, an earthly omnipotence : but all 
stood firm. There was doubt previously to the declaration — none after. 
Every name shone brighter as the darkness thickened. Each patriot was 
a sun that stood fast, as that under the bidding of Joshua, until the battle 
of independence had been fought and won. 

Another peculiarity should be mentioned. Not one of all that sacred 
band died with a stain upon his name. This work contains the biogra- 
phy of all ; there is not one to blush for. Their lives, like the orbs that 
constitute the milky way, are one stream of light ; and the glass of the 
historian, as it pierces the dim lustre, only reveals stars which are brighter 
as each is watched and studied. The annals of the world can present no 
political body, the lives of whose members, minutely traced, exhibit so 
much of the zeal of the patriot, dignified and chastened by the virtues of 
the man. Nearly all the Signers rose to high stations in their respective 
states and in the nation. The two members most active in the declara- 
tion of independence were elevated to the presidency of the republic ; and, 
by a providential coincidence, departed this life on the anniversary of the 
day of their triumph, together, breathing the same blessing upon their 
common labours, and winging their way to their joint reward. The 
Signers while they lived justified, in the highest stations of the republic, 
the confidence reposed in them ; and their monuments are the Meccas of 


patriotism, where the freeman repairs to renew his pledge to the princi- 
ples which they established, and his faith to the constitution which they 
and their compatriots erected and consecrated. 

The history of the lives of the Signers is an encouragement to virtue. 
It would be a difficult task to collect in public life examples, in the 
(ace of danger, and under tribulation, of lives so illustrious and happy — 
of deaths so peaceful and honoured. Even Time seemed to relax in 
passing over those whose acts have illuminated all time. Their lives 
were passed in high and honourable action ; their spirits excited by 
pure and lofty sentiments. In the temper of their minds, they owned 
the restraints of religion ; in their habits they were, with a few exceptions, 
rigidly regular and temperate. Though severe, they were not gloomy ; 
and, from the lofty standard of principles and action which they had 
adopted, though they ventured all, they could lose nothing, for fortune 
and life were nothing to them without freedom. The peace at home, in 
the heart, which attends such principles, seems to minister to health as 
well as to happiness. The longevity of the Signers has been made the 
subject of frequent remark. They lingered into an age beyond their own. 
It seemed a portion of their earthly reward, that they should witness the 
gathering of the rich and peaceful harvest which they had sown in tears 
and blood. The average age of the Signers at the time of their death, 
was sixty-eight years and four months. The oldest survivor was also the 
latest survivor, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was, at the time of his 
death, ninety-five years old. 

"They are no more," (we quote from an eminent living statesman,} 
" they are dead. But how little is there of the great and good which can 
die ! To their country they yet live, and live for ever. They live in all 
that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth : in the recorded proofs 
of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep 
engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of man- 
kind. They live in their example ; and they live, emphatically, and will 
live, in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and 
opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of 
men, not only in their own country, but throughout the civilized world. 
A superior and commanding human intellect, a truly great man, when 
Heaven vouchsafes so rare a gift, is not a temporary flame, burning bright 
for a while, and then expiring, giving place to returning darkness. It is 
rather a spark of fervent heat, as well as radiant light, with power to en- 
kindle the common mass of human mind ; so that when it glimmers in its 
own decay, and finally goes out in death, no night follows ; but it leaves 
the world all light, all on fire, from the potent contact of its own spirit." 

Philadelphia, 1846. R. T. C. 


In Congress, July 4, 1776. 
the unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states 
of america. 

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for 
one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected 
them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, 
the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and na- 
ture's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind 
requires, that they should declare the causes which impel them to 
the separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: — that all men are created 
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalien- 
able rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted 
among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the go- 
verned; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive 
of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and 
to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such princi- 
ples, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem 
most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, 
will dictate, that governments long established should not be changed 
for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath 
shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are 
sufTerable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to 
which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and 
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design 
to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their 
duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for 
their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these 
colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to 
alter their former systems of government. The history of the pre- 
sent king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and 
usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an ab- 
solute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be sub- 
mitted to a candid world. 



He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and neces- 
sary for the public good. 

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and 
pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation, till his as- 
sent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly 
neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other laws for 
the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people 
would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature — a 
right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only. 

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, un- 
comfortable, and distant from the repository of their public records, 
for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into a compliance with his 

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing, 
with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people. 

He has refused, for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause 
others to be elected ; whereby the legislative powers, incapable ol 
annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise, 
the State remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers 
of invasion from without, and convulsions within. 

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States ; 
for that purpose obstructing the laws of naturalization of foreigners ; 
refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and 
raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. 

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his 
assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. 

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure 
of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. 

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms 
of officers, to harass our people, and eat out their substance. 

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, with- 
out the consent of our legislatures. 

He has affected to render the military, independent of, and 
superior to, the civil power. 

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign 
to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws ; giving his 
assent to their acts of pretended legislation: 

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: 

For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any 
murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these 


For cutting oft* our trade with all parts of the world: 

For imposing taxes on us without our consent: 

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury: 

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences : 

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighbouring 
province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarg- 
ing its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit 
instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these 

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, 
and altering, fundamentally, the forms of our governments: 

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves 
invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. 

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his 
protection, and waging war against us. 

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, 
and destroyed the lives of our people. 

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries 
to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already 
began with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled 
in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a' 
civilized nation. 

He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high 
seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners 
of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands. 

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has en- 
deavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless 
Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished 
destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions. 

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress 
in the most humble terms : our repeated petitions have been an- 
swered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus 
marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the 
ruler of a free people. 

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. 
We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts by their 
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We 
have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and 
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and 
magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common 
kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably inter- 


nipt our connexions and correspondence. They too have been deaf 
to the voice of justice and consanguinity. We must, therefore, ac- 
quiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold 
them, as we hold the rest of mankind — enemies in war, in peace 

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of Ame- 
rica, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme 
Judge of the world, for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the 
name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, 
solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and 
of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are ab- 
solved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political 
connexion between them and the State of Great Britain is, and 
ought to be, totally dissolved ; and that, as free and independent 
States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract 
alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things 
which independent States may of right do. And for the support of 
this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine 
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, 
and our sacred honour 


RES. OF inuw u„ 






John Hancock, son of a gentleman of the same name, was 
born in the year 1737, in the colony of Massachusetts. The habit- 
ation of his father was situated near the present village of Quincy, 
and is now annexed to the estate of John Adams, former president 
of the United States. This same village gave birth to Samuel 
Adams; and, besides furnishing two of our chief magistrates, may 
be noted for the production of three of the most distinguished cha- 
racters of the revolution. 

His grandfather, who resided for half a century in the county of 
Middlesex, and in that part which is since called Lexington, and his 
father, were clergymen of good reputation. 

Under the care of his uncle, a distinguished merchant and patron 
of science and literature, John Hancock, whose father had died 
during his infancy, received his entire education. He was graduated 
at Harvard college in 1754; having performed, we may suppose, the 
exercises of that institution with the usual celerity and success. 

At the conclusion of his collegiate studies, Mr. Hancock enter- 
ed as a clerk in the counting house of his uncle, who was then 
at the height of his commercial prosperity. In 1760, he visited 
England; was present at the funeral of George It. and at the coro- 
nation of his successor. Soon after his return to America he was 
invested, by the decease and munificence of his patron, and at the 
age of twenty-seven years, with a fortune which is said to have 
1 A 53 


been more magnificent than that of any other individual of his 
native province. 

From this preliminary notice, we may now pursue him to the 
scenes of public life; for his ambition was not long confined to the 
precincts of the counting house, and his private life may be said to 
have ended with his minority. 

He was first chosen selectman of the town of Boston, an office 
which he held many years; and was elected, in 17CG, with James 
Otis, Samuel Adams, and Thomas dishing, a representative to the 
general assembly of the province. 

His introduction to public notice was favoured, with great inter- 
est, by his colleague Mr. Adams, which may be taken as no humble 
evidence of his competency and merit; for that gentleman is de- 
scribed, not only as a man of acute discrimination, but of a chaste 
and delicate honour, who used not willingly the instrumentality 
of vice, and who was not deceived by superficial or meretricious 

As representative of the provincial assembly, his colleagues cer- 
tainly entertained the highest sense both of the excellence of his 
principles and abilities; for, as it appears from the journals of their 
proceedings, he was nominated to nearly all their important com 
mittees; and, notwithstanding the acknowledged dignity of many 
of his associates, appointed chairman upon deliberations involving 
the highest interests of the community. 

During the first provocations of the British government, by which 
she excited discontent and opposition in her colonies, his diligence 
and talents were also exerted conspicuously. It was by his agency, 
and that of a few other citizens of Boston, that, for the purpose of 
causing such duties to be revoked, associations were instituted to 
prohibit the importation of British goods; a policy which, soon 
afterwards, being imitated in the other colonies, first kindled the 
apprehensions, and awoke the vigilance of the people to the preser- 
vation of their liberties. The agitation occasioned by these mea- 
sures of opposition were attended, indeed, by great excitement, and, 
in some instances, by acts of dangerous outrage; of which may be 
mentioned amongst the most conspicuous, the case of Mr. Otis, a 
gentleman very eminently distinguished, at that time, for various 
accomplishments, and especially his eloquence, who, at the instiga- 
tion of a British officer, was assailed with a violence which impaired 
his reason and accelerated his death. 

About the same time, a vessel of Mr. Hancock, being loaded, it 


was said, in contravention of the revenue laws, was seized by the 
custom-house officers, and carried under the guns of an armed ves- 
sel, at that time in the harbour, for security ; but the people, exas- 
perated by this offensive exertion of authority, assembled, and pur- 
suing the officers, beat them with clubs, and drove them aboard 
their vessels, or to a neighbouring castle, where they fled for pro- 
tection. The boat of the collector was then burnt in triumph, 
by the mob, and the houses of some of his most obnoxious adhe- 
rents were, in the first transports of the popular fury, razed to 
the ground. 

These riotous proceedings were, indeed, reprobated by the legal 
authorities, and instructions given for the punishment of the offend- 
ers; but the passions of the people, nevertheless, retained their 
excitement, and although the name only of Hancock, was connect- 
ed with the transaction, he derived from it a great increase of 

The governor of the province introduced, soon afterwards, into 
Boston, several regiments of British troops; a measure that more 
than all others, served to irritate the inhabitants and nourish the 
seeds of rebellion. The soldiery were prepossessed with an inso- 
lent contempt of the people amongst whom they were stationed, 
and, by a special discipline, prepared for acts of ferocity and vio- 
lence. The inhabitants, on the other hand, independent of the feel- 
ings inspired by the insulting parade of foreign troops in their city, 
regarded them, on this occasion, as the instruments of a tyranny, 
which all the miseries and everlasting infamy of servitude forbade 
them to endure; and, under the empire of such sentiments, embit- 
tered very frequently by contumelious expressions, which men more 
promptly resent than real injuries, the parties did not long abstain 
from acts of violence and outrage. 

On the evening of the fifth of March, 1770, a small party of the 
British soldiers parading in King street, were assailed with balls of 
snow and other accidental weapons by a tumultuary assemblage of 
citizens, who, by order of the commanding officer, were repelled 
with a discharge of musketry; — upon which occasion several of the 
crowd were wounded and a few were killed. This affray, which is 
usually termed " the massacre of Boston," although originating in 
the provocations of the people, was regarded as an act of atrocious 
iniquity, which required an immediate and signal revenge. The 
alarm was spread through the town by the clamours of the inhabit- 
ants and tolling of bells, and multitudes, with whatever arms their 


fury administered, flocked in from all sides. But during the con- 
fusion and stupefaction occasioned by so unusual and sanguinary a 
spectacle — for this was the first effusion of blood since the origin of 
their contentions — the offenders were withdrawn; and by this in- 
terception of their rage, by the intervention of individuals of the 
popular party, and by the assurances of the governor, that the 
guilty would be arrested for the punishment of the laws, all further 
acts of violence were prevented. 

An assembly of the citizens was convened on the succeeding day, 
principally by the instigation of Mr. Samuel Adams, in which Mr. 
Hancock, with some others, was appointed to request of the governor, 
a removal of the British troops from the town. This, the governor, 
by interposing the plea of insufficient authority, endeavoured to 
evade. A second committee was then selected, of which Hancock 
was chairman, who voted the excuse inadmissible, and in a more 
spirited and peremptory tone urged and obtained their removal. 
The prominence of Mr. Hancock, during these transactions, affords 
a sufficient evidence of the high estimation in which he was, at that 
period, held by his countrymen. 

The bodies of the slain being, a few days after their decease, 
borne to the place of burial, were deposited in the same tomb. 
Their obsequies were consecrated by many melancholy ceremonies, 
by the tolling of bells in Boston, and in the neighbouring towns; by 
funeral processions, and by various other emblematic demonstrations 
of mourning, which awoke the compassion or roused the indigna- 
tion of the people. The speech delivered by Mr. Hancock upon 
this occasion, was a bold and burning denunciation of tyranny. 
The following extract may be given as a specimen of its style and 

" But I gladly quit this theme of death — I would not dwell too 
long upon the horrid effects which have already followed from quar- 
tering regular troops in this town; let our misfortunes instruct pos- 
terity to guard against these evils. Standing armies are sometimes 
(I would by no means say generally, much less universally) com- 
posed of persons who have rendered themselves unfit to live in civil 
society; who are equally indifferent to the glory of.a George or a 
Louis ; who, for the addition of one penny a day to their wages, 
would desert from the Christian cross, and fight under the crescent 
of the Turkish Sultan ; from such men as these, what has not 
a state to fear? with such as these usurping Cresar passed the 
Rubicon ; with such as these he humbled mighty Rome, and forced 


the mistress of the world to own a master in a traitor. These are 
the men whom sceptred robbers now employ to frustrate the de- 
signs of God, and render vain the bounties which his gracious hand 
pours indiscriminately upon his creatures." 

By the sentiments of this latter paragraph, Hancock gave great 
offence to the British officers. 

This discourse is in some parts more declamatory than the usual 
style of the revolution, which was commonly very foreign from the 
noisy eloquence of faction or the glitter of false magnificence. It 
derives, however, an interest, independent of the arts of composition, 
from the occasion upon which it was pronounced ; by giving a new 
lustre to the reputation of Mr. Hancock, which, at this period, was 
injuriously diminished. 

Conscious of the injurious influence of his popularity upon the 
designs of the British government, the governor of the province had 
endeavoured, by studied civilities, or by direct overtures, made, it 
was said, at the instigation of Lord North the prime minister, to 
procure his disaffection to the interests of the provincial party; and 
at length, by the malice of rivals, or artifice of the enemy, joined to 
the natural pronencss of mankind to credit falsehood, many reports 
were soon spread detrimental to his fame. 

The provincial assembly, that it might be more subservient to 
ministerial authority, when remote from the vigilance or commo- 
tions of a populous city, had been transferred to Cambridge. This 
measure produced a violent altercation with the governor, who, after 
several sessions, yielded to the importunities of the members for re- 
turning to Boston, with the provision that "the right of convening 
elsewhere should be expressly admitted." Upon this question Han- 
cock voted with the majority, and in opposition to his friend and 
colleague, Samuel Adams, who strenuously opposed the proposition. 
The latter of these patriots being severe and sarcastic in debate, the 
former petulant and impatient of contradiction, a division of sen- 
timent produced a transient intermission of their intercourse and 
friendship, with a fierce and defamatory collision amongst their 
adherents. But to those who reside in a free government it need 
scarcely be observed how little credit, on such occasions, is due to 
the malicious recriminations of party spirit. 

Of these two popular leaders, the manners and appearance were 

indirect opposition, notwithstanding the conformity of their political 

principles, and their equal devotion to the liberties of their country. 

Mr. Samuel Adams was poor, and in his dress and manners simple 



and unadorned. Hancock, on the other hand, was numbered with 

the richest individuals of his country. His equipage was magnifi- 
cent, and such as at present is unknown in America. His apparel 
was sumptuously embroidered with gold, silver, and lace, and decked 
by such other ornaments as were fashionable amongst men of for- 
tune of that day ; he rode, especially upon public occasions, with six 
beautiful bays, and with servants in livery. He was graceful and 
prepossessing in manners, and very passionately addicted to what 
are called the elegant pleasures of life, to dancing, music, concerts, 
routs, assemblies, card parties, rich wines, social dinners, and festivi- 
ties; all which the stern republican virtues of Mr. Adams regarded 
with indifference, if not with contempt. 

He had been appointed, at an earlier period of his political career, 
speaker of the provincial assembly, and his election, in a written com- 
munication from the governor, was disapproved; he had been chosen 
in 1767 to the executive council, and experienced in that office the 
same honourable rejection. This disapprobation, which had been 
continued for many years, and had become, by repetition, essential to 
his fame, was suddenly suspended, and his nomination to the coun- 
cil was approved ; which was regarded as no equivocal evidence of 
the depravation of his principles. To counteract the effect of this 
immunity, and such other invidious civilities of the governor, Mr. 
Hancock refused his seat amongst the counsellors, and pronounced 
soon afterwards the oration to which we have referred of the fifth 
of March. A declaration of his sentiments, so explicit, furnished 
him a victorious and honourable vindication, and produced an entire 
renovation of his popularity; whilst, on the other hand, he incurred 
from such measures the more immediate notice and hostility of the 
British government. 

The battle of Lexington now announced the commencement of 
the revolutionary war. To gain possession of the persons of John 
Hancock and Samuel Adams, who lodged together in that village, 
was one of the motives of the expedition which led to this memora 
ble conflict ; but the design, though covered with great secrecy, was 
anticipated, and the devoted patriots escaped, upon the entrance of 
their habitation by the British troops. Thus, by the felicitous in 
tervention of a moment, were rescued perhaps from the executioner 
those who were to contribute by their virtues to the revolution of 
empires, and to be handed down to posterity amongst the benefac- 
tors of mankind. 

The defeat of the English in this battle was followed by the 


governor's proclamation declaring the province in a state of rebel- 
lion; offering, at the same time, pardon to all whose penitence 
should recommend them to this act of grace, with the exception of 
Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose guilt was deemed too 
flagitious for impunity. But so signal a denunciation, less the effect 
of good policy than of passion, advanced these popular chiefs upon 
the lists of fame ; they were every where hailed with increased ap- 
plauses, and not only by their illustrious merits, but by the dangers 
to which they were exposed, were endeared to the affections of their 

Hancock, in October 1774, was unanimously elected president of 
the provincial congress of Massachusetts. In the year 1775, he 
attained the meridian of his political distinction, and the highest 
honour that the confidence or the esteem of his compatriots could at 
that time bestow upon him, being made president of the continental 
congress. By his long experience in business, as moderator of two 
meeting's, president and speaker of the provincial assemblies and 
conventions, during times of great turbulence and commotion, in his 
native state, he was eminently qualified, as well as by his natural 
dignity of manners, to preside in this great, council of the nation. 

When the chair of the presidency was offered him, he is said to 
have received the intelligence with embarrassment and hesitation. 
Having passed by regular gradation through the various offices of 
the state, it is not reasonable to suppose, that he was terrified on 
this occasion by precipitate elevation; and being already upon the 
lists of proscription, and living in commerce with dangers, that his 
emotions were produced by a heartless pusillanimity. Of Washing- 
ton, it has likewise been remarked, that in receiving the chief com- 
mand of the army, he discovered an extreme embarrassment of 

Many persons were present in this congress of superior age to that 
of Mr. Hancock, and who, at the same time, were men of pre-emi- 
nent abilities. It was, besides, an occasion upon which composure 
in him who was invested with the principal honours had been little 
commendable ; for rarely, in the vicissitudes of nations, has it hap- 
pened that interests more sacred have been confided to the infirmity 
of human wisdom, or a more imposing spectacle been exhibited 
to human observation. Mr. Hancock being excluded from public 
discussions, and from the deliberations of committees, by the injunc- 
tions of his office of presidency, details are inadmissible in the illus- 
tration of his character. The common transactions of this assembly. 


although referred to the most splendid period of his life, must, there- 
fore, he passed without enumeration. 

The Declaration of Independence, though signed by all the mem- 
bers of the congress, was accompanied, in its first publication, by the 
signature of Mr. Hancock alone ; an accidental association, which, 
although it conferred no special title to praise beyond his colleagues, 
preoccupied the admiration of the public, and has contributed, in 
no small degree, to the extension of his fame. 

In October of 1777, having for two years and a half sustained the 
duties of the presidency of congress, Mr. Hancock, wasted by un- 
remitting application to business, and by the severity of the gout, 
which had rendered his health infirm and precarious, resigned his 
office ; and amidst the felicitations of his countrymen, who vied 
with each other in demonstrations of respect, retired to his native 

A convention, about this time, was appointed to frame a consti- 
tution for the state of Massachusetts, to which he was elected; and 
ivith his usual diligence and fidelity he assisted in their deliberations. 
On all occasions, he had favoured republican institutions ; and, on 
the present, contended for the limitation of the executive authority. 

He was elected, in 1780, governor of the commonwealth ; the 
first who was appointed under the sanction of the new constitution, 
and derived his power from the suffrages of the people. He was 
annually continued in that office until the year 1785, when he re- 
signed ; and, after an intermission of two years, during which he 
had been succeeded by Mr. Bowdoin, was re-elected, and remained 
in the chair until the close of his life. 

Hancock had been involved, during the early period of his career, 
in the perpetual turbulence of the revolution ; nor was he permitted, 
in the conclusion of it, to enjoy the blandishments of tranquillity. 
The accumulation of debts during the war, and the necessity of a 
lumbrous imposition of taxes for their diminution, added to the 
usual depravation of morals or disqualification for civil occupations, 
consequent to a long suspension of the arts of industry, had filled 
the community with various griefs and necessities ; and had diffused 
in the country a spirit of insubordination, which threatened for a 
while the subversion of all order and government. 

The force of the faction actively opposed to the government, in 
New England, was estimated at twelve thousand persons. The ma- 
jority of the people were, especially in Massachusetts, indisposed to 
the government ; and many of them had devised its total subversion. 


The first outrages were exercised against the officers of justice, 
who by acts of violence were restrained from the administration 
of their duties ; and depredations were often made upon the property 
of individuals. The governor and the general assembly, having 
used many efforts of conciliation, by temporising expedients, which 
never fail to increase the insolence of a riotous multitude, finally 
employed against them four thousand of the militia; and the insur- 
gents being destitute of a head to direct their operations, after a 
resistance altogether inadequate to the apprehensions they had ex- 
cited, a few only being killed or wounded, and many made prisoners, 
were immediately dispersed. They maintained, nevertheless, a 
dangerous predominance in the state, and riot and disorder still 
subsisted until the year 1787, when, by the agency of Mr. Hancock, 
at that time governor, they were finally repressed. The principals, 
to the number of fourteen, having surrendered, were condemned by 
the supreme court to suffer capitally for their treason ; but were 
released by the pardon of the governor. This act of clemency was 
attributed, by some of the more rigid republicans of those times, to 
a want of energy, nor did it pass without severe animadversion. 

At this period of factious disorder, and especially during his com- 
petition for the office of governor, Hancock was assailed with great 
virulence and malice by antagonists who were neither impotent in 
genius nor inconsiderable in numbers. To ask why Hancock sus- 
tained these frequent persecutions in return for his eminent services, 
would be a vain disquisition. It is to ask, why, in all ages, those 
who have been most entitled to the veneration of the world, have 
been persecuted with the most unrelenting malevolence? why Aris- 
tides languished in exile, or Miltiades perished in a dungeon? 

But the repression of disorder and faction in the state, towards 
the conclusion of his life, and the salutary diligence of his adminis- 
tration, appeased almost entirely the resentments and animosities 
which party had excited against him. 

His agency in promoting the adoption of the federal constitution 
is mentioned amongst the objects which most recommend him to 
esteem amongst his contemporaries, and which entitle him to the 
regards of posterity. 

An opposition to this system of government existed in many parts 
of the continent, and, in Massachusetts, the majority of the conven- 
tion were supposed to disapprove it. Of this assembly, Hancock, 
who was believed to be averse to the confederation, had been elected 
president, but by sickness was detained from their deliberations 


until the last week of the session. He then appeared and voted in 
its favour; and to his diligence in removing, by appropriate amend- 
ments, the apprehensions and objections of many in the opposition, 
added to his address and authority upon this occasion, is principally 
ascribed the adoption of the constitution in Massachusetts; and with 
no greater ornament could we desire to complete the monument of 
his fame, than by recording his instrumentality in the promotion of 
a measure so indispensable to the glory and prosperity of his country. 

He did not, however, in favouring a confederate republic, vindi- 
cate with less scrupulous vigilance the dignity of the individual 
states. In a suit commenced against Massachusetts, by the court 
of the United States, in which he was summoned upon a writ, as 
governor, to answer the prosecution, he resisted the process, and 
maintained inviolate the sovereignty of the commonwealth. A re- 
currence of a similar collision of authority was, in consequence of 
this opposition, prevented by an amendment of the federal con- 

This incident is enumerated amongst the latest events of his ad- 
ministration and of his life. He died suddenly, on the eighth of 
October, 1793, and in the fifty-fifth year of his age. During several 
days, his body lay in state at his dwelling, where great multitudes 
thronged to pay the last offices of their grief and affection. His 
obsequies were attended with great pomp and solemnity, and amidst 
the tears of his countrymen he was committed to the dust. 

He had married, about twenty years before his death, Miss 
Quincy, daughter of an eminent magistrate of Boston, and one of 
the most ancient and distinguished families of New England. No 
children were left to inherit his fortune or perpetuate his name; his 
only son having died during his infancy. 

Having now related the principal events of the life of Mr. Han- 
cock, it may be permitted to add something more particular of his 
person and character. In stature he was above the middle size, 
of excellent proportion of limbs, of extreme benignity of counte- 
nance; possessing a flexible and harmonious voice, a manly and 
dignified aspect. By the improvement of these natural qualities 
from observation and extensive intercourse with the world, he had 
acquired a pleasing elocution with the most graceful and concili- 
ating manners. 

Of his talents it is a sufficient evidence, that, in the various sta- 
tions to which his fortune had elevated him in the republic, he ac- 
quitted himself with an honourable distinction. His communications 


to the general assembly, and his correspondence as president of 
congress, appear to as titles to no ordinary commendation. 

As an orator, Mr. Hancock spoke without elaboration or preten- 
sion, but agreeably on all subjects. His harangues exhibit no com- 
mon comprehension of things or powers of language, and were es- 
pecially well suited to the dispositions of the times in which he lived- 

He possessed, either from the dispositions of nature or habits of 
discipline, many excellent virtues. In the first place, it is no trivial 
commendation, at an age when the vanities of our nature are usually 
predominant, that, possessing a superfluity of wealth, and being, at 
the same time, exempt from parental authority, he betook himself 
to honourable and laborious pursuits, rather than to indulgence or 
dissipation; and that he did not grow arrogant or insolent, from the 
superiority of his advantages, entitles him also to no small degree 
of praise. In those countries in which titles or pedigree preoccupy 
the honours of the state, money is divested of a portion of its power 
over the mind; but, in republics, where it bestows an unrivalled 
pre-eminence, many excellent and great qualities of the heart are 
essential to counteract its malignant influence. 

By his enemies it was remarked, not unfrcquently, that his acts 
of liberality, his colloquial accomplishments, and other faculties of 
persuasion, were exerted wholly in the acquisition of popularity. 
That he courted this capricious divinity with great devotion, may 
perhaps be allowed; that he did it with success, admits of no doubt, 
for he is remembered as the most popular individual of Massachu- 
setts, of his own or any other time. But Hancock was supported 
by no obliquity of morals, and no prostration of dignity or honour. 

In 1775, it was proposed by the American officers, who carried 
on the siege of Boston, in order to procure the expulsion of the 
enemy, to bombard or destroy the town. The entire wealth of Mr. 
Hancock was exposed, by the execution of this enterprise, to ruin ; 
but whilst he felt for the sufferings of others with a very generous 
compassion, he required that no regard to his personal advantages 
should obstruct the operations of the army. His private fortune, 
he observed, should, on no occasion, oppose an obstacle to the inte- 
rests of his coucry. 

Many illustrations might be given of Mr. Hancock's active and 
disinterested generosity, for there are, indeed, few persons either 
of ancient or modern times, whose biography would furnish more 
frequent and worthy examples. Charity was the common business 
of his life. Hundreds of families, from his private benevolence, 


received their daily bread ; and there is, perhaps, no individual 
mentioned in history, who has expended a more ample fortune in 
promoting the liberties of his country. 

It is said he was very passionately devoted to social amusements. 
His habitation was every day crowded with guests, either of citizens 
or strangers, who were allured by the splendour of his hospitality; 
whom he entertained, however, with no riotous dissipation, but with 
a becoming elegance and propriety. He encountered, in the pro- 
motion of honest enterprises, many labours and dangers; and has 
left upon the records of his country, a testimony which the malevo- 
lence of time cannot destroy, that no seductions of pleasure, that 
not even the decrepitude of disease, withheld him from the service 
of the republic. 

His exertions were employed, it should also be remembered, not 
only without intermission, but from the minutest to the most exalted 
duties of a statesman; from the humble debates of a town meeting, 
to the deliberations of a senate. And to have retained, for the most 
part, with a frank and generous disposition, with a familiarity of 
intercourse and continual exhibition, the evanescent affections of 
the multitude; and this, too, amidst the factious passions of a revo- 
lution, implies no ordinary dexterity and address. For what is there 
in moral or physical excellence that does not lose, by frequency, the 
admiration of mortals? — Genius is divested of her sublimity, Wit 
of her ornaments, and even Virtue is disrobed of her majesty by 
exposure to the capricious observation of man. 



Samuel Adams, whose name as a delegate from Massachusetts, 
immediately follows that of Hancock on the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, was, without doubt, one of the most remarkable among 
those men, whose lives we are recording; and we shall scarcely find 
a great event in the history of the revolution with which he was not 
in some way connected. He was born at Quincy, near Boston, on 
the twenty-second of September, 1722, and was descended from a 
family of much respectability, that had settled in New England at 
a very early period. His father was for many years a represent- 
ative for the town of Boston, in the colonial house of assembly, to 
which he was annually elected till his death. He was long a justice 
of the peace and a selectman of the town; possessing considerable 
wealth, and much respected and esteemed.* 

Samuel Adams acquired his preparatory knowledge at the well 
known Latin grammar school of Mr. Lovell, where he was remark- 
ably attentive to his studies. His conduct was similar while at col- 
lege; during the whole term he had to pay but one fine, and that 
for not attending morning prayers, in consequence of having over- 
slept himself. By a close and steady application, he acquired much 
classical and scientific knowledge. 

At an early age, he was admitted a student at Harvard Univer- 
sity, and in 1740, and 1743, the respective degrees of bachelor and 
master of arts were conferred upon him. On the latter occasion, 
he proposed the following question for discussion, "Whether it be 
lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the commonwealth can- 
not be otherwise preserved?" He maintained the affirmative of 
the proposition, and thus evinced, at this early period of life, his 
attachment to the liberties of the people. While he was a student, 

* It may be remarked, as an incentive to virtue in fathers, that almost every dis- 
tinguished man of the revolution derived his being from parents remarkable for the 
purity of their character. The fact conveys a lesson to which no republican parent 
should be indifferent. 

B 67 


his father allowed him a regular and fixed stipend. Of this, he 
saved a sufficient sum to publish, at his own expense, a pamphlet, 
called ■' Englishmen's Rights." 

His father intended him for the bar; but this determination, at the 
solicitation of his mother, was altered, and he was placed as an 
apprentice with Thomas dishing, an eminent merchant. For this 
occupation he was ill adapted, and it received but a small share of 
his attention. The study of politics was his chief delight, and about 
this time he formed a club, each member of which agreed to fur- 
nish a political essay for a newspaper called the Independent Ad- 
vertiser. These essays brought the writers into notice, who were 
called, in derision, "the whipping post club." 

His limited knowledge of commerce rendered him incompetent 
to support himself by that pursuit. His father, however, gave him 
a considerable capital, with which he commenced business. He had 
not been long in trade when he lent one of his countrymen a large 
sum of money. This person, soon after, met with heavy calamities, 
which he represented to Mr. Adams, who never demanded the 
amount, although it was nearly half the value of his original stock. 
This and other losses soon consumed all he had. 

At the age of twenty-five, his father died, and as he was the eldest 
son, the care of the family and management of the estate devolved 
upon him. 

Notwithstanding this circumstance, however, he still was unable 
to resist the strong inclination for political affairs, which he had felt 
from his earliest youth; and instead of devoting himself to his busi- 
ness, occupied much of his time both in conversation and writing, 
on the political concerns of the day. He was strongly opposed to 
Governor Shirley, because he thought the union of so much civil 
and military power in one man, dangerous to the liberties of the 
province, but he was the friend of his successor Pownall, who as- 
sumed the popular side. 

In 1763, the Massachusetts agent in London transmitted intel- 
ligence, that it was contemplated by the ministry, to "tax the 
colonies for the purpose of raising a revenue, which was to be 
placed at the disposal of the crown." In May of the following year, 
Mr. Adams being appointed by the citizens of Boston to draw up 
the instructions of their representatives, which it was then the cus- 
tom to give in writing, he did so ; and, what is the most material fact, 
it was the first public document which denied the supremacy of the 
British parliament, and their right to tax the colonists without their 


own consent ; anil which contained a direct suggestion of the neces- 
sity of a united effort on the part of all the provinces. 

In the year 1764, there was a private political club in Boston, in 
which decisive measures were originated, that gave a secret spring 
and impulse to the motions of the public body. Mr. Adams was 
one of the patriotic conclave. It was the determination of this little 
body to exercise all their influence in resisting every infringement 
of the rights of the colonies ; and the Stamp Act was so flagrant a 
violation of them, that to suffer it quietly to be carried into effect, 
would establish a precedent, and encourage further proceedings of 
a similar nature. Mr. Adams was not averse to the manner in 
which the people evinced their determinate opposition, by destroy- 
ing the stamped papers and office in Boston ; but he highly disap- 
proved the riots and disorders which followed, and personally aided 
the civil power to put a stop to them. 

Indeed, even at this early period, so entirely had he become a 
public man, and discovered such a zealous, watchful, and unyielding 
regard for popular rights, that he excited the general attention of 
the patriotic party. He became a conspicuous favourite of the peo- 
ple, and the leader in all the popular proceedings of the day ; and 
as a further proof of their confidence, he was elected, in the year 
1765, a representative of the town of Boston, in the general court 
or house of assembly of Massachusetts. From that period, through- 
out the whole revolutionary struggle, he was one of the most un- 
wearied, efficient, and disinterested supporters of American rights 
and independence. 

Nor was it in his legislative capacity alone that he showed him- 
self to be so. He wrote a number of able essays on the subject of 
the disputes between Great Britain and her colonies, and he sug- 
gested several plans for more effectually opposing her arbitrary de- 
signs. To him is the nation indebted for the idea of assembling the 
first congress at New York, which led, ten years after, to the conti- 
nental congress, and finally to the union and confederation of the 
provinces. And to him also is to be attributed the design of the 
non-importation system, which he persuaded nearly all the mer- 
chants in the colony to adopt and adhere to. 

As a delegate, he became conspicuous very soon after his admis- 
sion into the house, and as it was then the practice to choose the 
clerk from among the members, he was early honoured with the 
election to that office. He was upon every committee, had a hand 
in writing or revising every report, a share in the management of 


every political meeting, private or public, and a voice in all the 
measures that were proposed to counteract the tyrannical plans ot 
the administration. The people soon found him to be one of the 
steadiest of their supporters, and the government was convinced 
that he was one of the most inveterate of their opponents. 

When his character was known in England, and it was also un- 
derstood that he was poor, the partisans of the ministry proposed 
that he should be quieted by a participation in some of the good 
things which they were enjoying. Governor Hutchinson, in answer- 
ing the inquiry why he was not silenced in this manner, wrote with 
an expression of impatient vexation — " Such is the obstinacy and 
inflexible disposition of the man, that he never can be conciliated 
by any office or gift whatever." 

It is reported, however, and generally believed, that the proposal 
was actually made to Mr. Adams ; and that, in consequence, he was 
deprived of a stipend allowed to him by the representatives, as the 
clerk of the house, which, though small, was still a great part of his 
support. But yet, in this critical condition, he reprobated the offer, 
choosing rather to subsist by individual or common beneficence, or 
even perish, than sacrifice the cause of truth, and betray the liberty ■ 
of the people. 

In the year 1770, the feelings of the people were aroused by an 
event which will ever remain prominent in the annals of the revolu- 
tion, as the first instance of bloodshed that occurred between the 
British troops and the colonists. In the life of Mr. Hancock, we 
have already alluded to it, and related the zealous part that he took 
in the subsequent proceedings of the indignant and outraged com 
munity. The participation of Mr. Adams in them was equally, per- 
haps still more, active. 

The excitement produced by the rashness of the English soldiery 
in firing upon the mob which they had, by a long series of provoca- 
tions, aroused to resentment, was intense and universal. The blood 
of their fellow citizens had been shed by the armed and hired myr- 
midons of what was deemed a tyranny, and the unwonted spectacle 
of the bleeding victims of lawless power fired the people to mad- 
ness. The excitement was propitious for the purposes of the pa- 
triots of the day, and it was improved. 

On the following morning, a public meeting of the citizens of 
Boston was called, and Mr. Adams addressed the assembly with that 
impressive eloquence which was so peculiar to himself. The peo- 
ple, on this occasion, chose a committee to wait upon the lieutenant 


governor, to require that the troops be immediately withdrawn from 
the town. The mission, however, proved unsuccessful ; and another 
resolution was immediately adopted, that a new committee be chosen 
to wait a second time upon Governor Hutchinson, for the purpose of 
conveying the sense of the meeting in a more peremptory manner. 
They waited on the lieutenant governor, and communicated this 
last vote of the town. In a speech of some length, Mr. Adams stated 
the danger of keeping the troops longer in the capital, fully proving 
the illegality of the act itself; and enumerated the fatal conse- 
quences that would ensue, if an immediate compliance with the vote 
should be refused. Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson, with his usual 
prevarication, replied by roundly asserting, that there was no ille- 
gality in the measure ; and repeated, that the troops were not sub- 
ject to his authority, but that he would direct the removal of the 
twenty-ninth regiment. Mr. Adams again rose. The importance 
of the subject, and the manner in which it was treated by the lieu- 
tenant governor, had now roused his feelings and excited all the 
ardour of his patriotism. With indignation strongly expressed in 
his countenance, and in a firm, resolute, and commanding manner, 
he replied, " That it was well known, that, acting as a governor of 
the province, he was, by its charter, the commander in chief of his 
majesty's military and naval forces, and as such, the troops were 
subject to his orders; if he had the power to remove one regiment, 
he had the power to remove both, and nothing short of this would 
satisfy the people ; it was at his peril, therefore, if the vote of the 
town was not immediately complied with, and if it were longer de- 
layed, he, alone, must be answerable for the fatal consequences that 
would ensue." This produced a momentary silence. It was now 
dark, and the people were waiting in anxious suspense for the re- 
port of their committee. A conference in whispers followed between 
Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson and Colonel Dalrymple. The for- 
mer, finding himself so closely pressed, and the fallacy and absurdity 
of his arguments thus glaringly exposed, yielded up his positions, 
and gave his consent to the removal of both regiments ; Colonel 
Dalrymple too pledged his word of honour, that he would begin his 
preparations in the morning, and that there should be no unnecessary 
delay, until the whole of both regiments were removed to the castle. 
The formation of committees of correspondence between the dif- 
ferent colonies, has always been looked upon as one of the leading 
and most important causes of the revolution, at least of that union 
of feeling and action which gave rise to it, and insured eventual 
3 b 2 


success. Virginia asserts the design to have first arisen with her 
truly great statesman, Richard Henry Lee ; while Massachusetts, 
with equal confidence, sees its origin in the efforts and intelligence 
of Samuel Adams. Perhaps — and indeed private correspondence 
of both, which has come to light, seems to establish the fact — the 
idea may have arisen with each of these patriotic statesmen, who 
had long been reflecting on the aspect of tilings and probable events, 
"and anxiously considering the course which their country might be 
called on to pursue. It was adopted in Massachusetts, at a town- 
meeting held in Boston, at the close of the year 1772, where it was 
suggested by Mr. Adams. 

The rapid increase of Mr. Adams' popularity and influence ren- 
dered it every day more desirable to the royal party, that he should 
be detached from the popular cause. Hutchinson knew him too 
well to make the attempt; but Governor Gage was empowered to 
try the experiment. He sent to him a confidential and verbal mes- 
sage by Colonel Fenton, who waited upon Mr. Adams, and stated 
the object of his visit. He said, that he was authorized from Go- 
vernor Gage to assure him, that he had been empowered to confer 
upon him such benefits as would be satisfactory, upon the condition, 
that he would engage to cease in his opposition to the measures of 
government. He also observed, that it was the advice of Governor 
Gage to him, not to incur the further displeasure of his majesty; 
that his conduct had been such as made him liable to the penalties 
of an act of Henry VIII. by which persons could be sent to England 
for trial of treason, or misprison of treason, at the discretion of a 
governor of a province; but by changing his political course, lie 
would not only receive great personal advantages, but would thereby 
make his peace with the king. Mr. Adams listened with apparent 
interest to this recital. He asked Colonel Fenton if he would truly 
deliver his reply, as it should be given. After some hesitation he 
assented. Mr. Adams required his word of honour, which he pledged. 
Then rising from his chair, and assuming a determined manner, he 
replied, "I trust I have long since made my peace with the King 
of Kings. No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon 
the righteous cause of my country. Tell Governor Gage, IT is the 
advice of Samuel Adams to him, no longer to insult the feelings 
of an exasperated people." 

Irritated at this failure of his plans, Governor Gage, in a moment 
of indignation, issued the celebrated proclamation, which, had no- 
thing else done it, would have immortalized those against whom it 


was directed, while it only bound them more firmly to the cause they 
had adopted, and rallied all around them as devoted champions. 
"I do hereby," he said, "in his majesty's name, offer and promise 
his most gracious pardon to all persons who shall forthwith lay 
down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects, ex- 
cepting only from the benefit of such pardon, Samuel Adams and 
John Hancock, whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to 
admit of any other consideration but that of condign punishment." 
The persecutions of the royalists only strengthened the efforts of 
the patriots. They encouraged the ardour of the resolute, and they 
gave spirit and determination to the timid. Whenever Mr. Adams 
perceived a disposition to yield, or to adopt measures unsuited to 
the emergency, he exerted all his influence and talents, and usually 
succeeded in his views. When he, on one occasion, found the house 
of assembly less resolute than usual, he thus addressed his friend, 
Mr. Warren, -of Plymouth: "Do you keep the committee in play, 
and I will go and make a caucus by the time the evening arrives, 
and do you meet me." Mr. Adams secured a meeting of about five 
principal members of the house at the time specified, and repeated 
his endeavours for the second and third nights, when the number 
amounted to more than thirty. The friends of the administration 
knew nothing of the matter. The popular leaders took the sense 
of the members in a private way, and found that they would be able 
to carry their scheme by a sufficient majority. They had their whole 
plan completed, prepared their resolutions, and then determined to 
bring the business forward; but before they commenced, the door- 
keeper was ordered to let no person in, or suffer any one to depart. 
The subjects for discussion were then introduced by Mr. Adams, 
with his usual eloquence on such great occasions. He was chairman 
of the committee, and reported resolutions, for the appointment of 
delegates to a general congress to be convened at Philadelphia, to 
consult on the general safety of America. This report was received 
with surprise and astonishment by the administration party. Such 
was the apprehension of some, that they were apparently desirous 
to desert the question. The door-keeper seemed uneasy at his 
charge, and wavering with regard to the performance of the duty 
assigned to him. At this critical juncture, Mr. Adams relieved him, 
by taking the key and keeping it himself. The resolutions were 
passed; five delegates, consisting of Samuel Adams, Thomas dish- 
ing, Robert Treat Paine, John Adams, and James Bowdoin, were 
appointed; the expense was estimated, and funds were voted for 


the payment. Before the business was finally closed, a member 
made a plea of indisposition, and was allowed to leave the house. 
This person went directly to the governor, and informed him of their 
high-handed proceedings. The governor immediately sent his secre- 
tary to dissolve the assembly, who found the door locked. He de- 
manded entrance, but was answered, that his desire could not be 
complied with, until some important business, then before the house, 
was concluded. Finding every method to gain admission ineffectual, 
he read the order on the stairs for an immediate dissolution of the 
assembly. The order, however, was disregarded by the house. 
They continued their deliberations, passed all their intended mea- 
sures, and then obeyed the mandate for dissolution. 

Mr. Adams took his seat in the first continental congress at Phila 
delphia, on the fifth of September, 1774, and continued a member 
of that body until the year 1781. To trace him through the various 
important duties which he performed in that long interval, would be 
to write the history of congress. Assuming, from his unwearied 
zeal and firm tone of character, much of the same prominence 
which he had displayed at home, he became a mover, or important 
coadjutor, in almost all the business of the time. It is incredible, 
indeed, if the journals of congress be any guide, how various and 
how numerous were his services, and with what unabated ardour 
he continued to bestow them to the last. He reminds us of the inde- 
fatigable Puritans of early days, and indeed in many traits of cha- 
racter he strongly resembled them, who could devote an attention 
and length of time to the pursuit of their favourite schemes, which 
seems beyond probability to the less enthusiastic tempers of the pre- 
sent age. 

His letters at this period, especially those to his friend Richard 
Henry Lee, exhibit the iron in his character at its white heat. He 
anticipated the struggle as necessary for the high interests of liberty 
and the country, and therefore desired it. He was one of those who 
saw, very early, that, "after all, we must fight" — and having come 
to that conclusion, there was no citizen more prepared for the ex 
tremity, or who would have been more reluctant to enter into any 
kind of compromise. After he had received warning at Lexington, 
in the night of the eighteenth of April, of the intended British expe- 
dition, as he proceeded to make his escape through the fields with 
some friends, soon after the dawn of day, he exclaimed, "this is a 
fine day!" "Very pleasant, indeed," answered one of his com- 
panions, supposing he alluded to the beauty of the sky and at 


mosphere — "I mean," he replied, "this day is a glorious day for 

Impressed with such feelings, and acting under them, he soon per- 
ceived the necessity of breaking off all connection with the mother 
country, and determining resolutely to support the principles he had 
adopted. " I am perfectly satisfied," he says, in a letter written in 
April 1776, from Philadelphia to a friend in Massachusetts — " I am 
perfectly satisfied of the necessity of a public and explicit declara- 
tion of independence. I cannot conceive what good reason can be 
assigned against it. Will it widen the breach? This would be a 
strange question after we have raised armies and fought battles 
with the British troops; — set up an American navy, permitted the 
inhabitants of these colonies to fit out armed vessels to capture the 
ships, &c. belonging to any of the inhabitants of Great Britain; 
declaring them the enemies of the United Colonies, and torn into 
shivers their acts of trade, by allowing commerce, subject to regu- 
lations to be made by ourselves, with the people of all countries, 
except such as are subject to the British king. It cannot, surely, 
after all this, be imagined, that we consider ourselves, or mean to 
be considered by others, in any other state than that of independ- 
ence. But moderate whigs are disgusted with our mentioning the 
word! Sensible tories are better politicians. They know, that no 
foreign power can consistently yield comfort to rebels, or enter into 
any kind of treaty with these colonies, till they declare themselves 
free and independent. They are in hopes, by our protracting this 
decisive step, we shall grow weary of the war, and that for want of 
foreign connections and assistance, we shall be driven to the neces- 
sity of acknowledging the tyrant, and submitting to the tyranny. 
These are the hopes and expectations of the tories, while moderate 
gentlemen are flattering themselves with the prospect of reconcilia- 
tion, when the commissioners that are talked of shall arrive. A mere 
amusement, indeed! What terms of reconciliation are we to expect 
from them, that will be acceptable to the people of America? Will 
the king of Great Britain empower his commissioners even to pro- 
mise the repeal of all, or any of his obnoxious and oppressive acts? 
Can he do it? or if he could, has he even yet discovered a disposition 
which evinced the least degree of that princely virtue— clemency?" 

In the year that succeeded the Declaration of Independence, how- 
ever, the prospects of the country became exceedingly gloomy, and 
even the boldest were sometimes led to fear they had gone farther 
than their resources authorized them to do. It was at this critical 


juncture, after congress, whose members were reduced to twenty- 
eight individuals, had resolved to adjourn to Lancaster, that some 
of the leading gentlemen accidentally met in company with each 
other. A conversation in mutual confidence ensued. Mr. Adams, 
who was one of the number, was cheerful and undismayed at the 
aspect of affairs, while the countenances of his friends were strongly 
marked with the desponding feelings of their hearts. The conver- 
sation naturally turned upon the subject which most engaged their 
thoughts. Each took occasion to express his opinions on the situa- 
tion of the public cause, and all were gloomy and sad. Mr. Adams 
listened in silence till they had finished. He then said, " Gentle- 
men, your spirits appear to be heavily oppressed with our public 
calamities. I hope you do not despair of our final success ?" It was 
answered, " That the chance was desperate." Mr. Adams replied, 
" If this be our language, it is so, indeed. If we wear long faces, 
they will become fashionable. The people take their tone from ours, 
and if we despair, can it be expected that they will continue their 
efforts in what we conceive to be a hopeless cause? Let us banish 
such feelings, and show a spirit that will keep alive the confidence 
of the people, rather than damp their courage. Better tidings will 
soon arrive. Our cause is just and righteous, and we shall never be 
abandoned by Heaven while we show ourselves worthy of its aid and 
protection." His words were almost prophetic. Within a few days, 
the news arrived of the glorious success of our cause at Saratoga, 
which gave brightness to our prospects and confidence to our hopes. 

The year 1778 produced the attempt on the part of the British 
government, to divide or distract the colonies by their pretended 
offers of conciliation. Their drift was immediately perceived by Mr. 
Adams, and he immediately adopted measures to arouse the con- 
gress and the country to a sense of the danger. The exertions 
made to defeat, in anticipation, this effort of the enemy to distract, 
deceive, and divide the country, were successful, and the cause was 
saved from one of the most imminent dangers of the contest. 

In the year 1781, with the prospects of peace, Mr. Adams began 
to turn his attention to the objects which ought to be secured by the 
United States, on an event to attain which she had suffered so much 
and so long ; and with all the peculiar tenaciousness of his charac- 
ter, he determined that those privileges and rights should be expli- 
citly secured, on which the respective interests of various portions 
of the country depended. He saw clearly, too, the necessity of en- 
tering upon the world with those broad views of policy which would 


enable us to maintain our rights. His correspondence on tins sub- 
ject, particularly his letter to Mr. M'Kean, manifests the enlarged 
views of the statesman, and the fervour of the patriot. "Are we 
soon to have peace?" he writes, in the summer of 1781, to Mr. 
M'Kean, at that time president of congress; " however desirable 
this may be, we must not wish for it on any terms but such as shall 
be honourable and safe to our country. Let us not disgrace our- 
selves by giving just occasion for it to be said hereafter, that we 
finished this great contest with an inglorious accommodation." 

After Mr. Adams retired from congress, he continued to receive 
from his native state, new proofs of her sense of his services, in his 
appointment to offices of the highest trust. He had already been a 
member of the convention which formed her constitution, being on 
the committee which draughted it, and on that which framed the 
address with which it was presented to the people. He afterwards 
became, successively, a member of the senate, president of that 
body, and a member of the convention assembled for the ratification 
of the federal constitution. To this instrument, in its reported form, 
he had some objections ; the principal of which were to those parts 
that lessened, as he conceived, injudiciously, the powers of the sepa- 
rate states; and he prepared several amendments, that met with 
the approbation of the convention, and some of which were after- 
wards incorporated in the constitution itself. His particular speeches 
have not, unfortunately, been preserved, or we should have had the 
valuable comment of a strong mind, improved by great experience, 
on questions deeply interesting to us. His letters, however, occa- 
sionally contain remarks illustrating his sentiments, and are well 
worthy the attention of politicians in our own times. 

" I hope the federal congress is vested with powers, adequate to 
all the great purposes of the federal union ; and, if they have such 
adequate powers, no true and understanding federalist would con- 
sent, that they should be trusted with more ; for more would discover 
the folly of the people in their wanton grant of power; because it 
might, and considering the disposition of the human mind, without 
doubt would, be wantonly extended to their injury and ruin. The 
powers vested in government by the people, the only just source of 
such powers, ought to be critically defined, and well understood; 
lest, by a misconstruction of ambiguous expressions, and by inter- 
ested judges too, more power might be assumed by the government 
than the people ever intended they should possess. Few men are 
contented with less power than they have a right to exercise : the 


ambition of the human heart grasps at more : this is evinced by the 
experience of all ages." 

Mr. Adams was destined to receive still further proofs of the at- 
tachment of his fellow citizens, by being successively raised to the 
highest honors they could bestow, as lieutenant governor, and gov- 
ernor of the state. In these high offices he preserved and displayed 
the same manly and firm principles which he had always expressed; 
and he especially called to the attention of the people, the careful 
preservation of those mutual rights which they had yielded and re- 
tained at the formation of the federal government. " I shall pre- 
sently be called upon," he observes, in one of his inaugural address- 
es, " as it is enjoined by the constitution, to make a declaration 
upon oath, and I shall do it with cheerfulness, because the injunction 
accords with my own judgment and conscience, ' that the common- 
wealth of Massachusetts, is and of right ought to be a free, sovereign, 
and independent state.' I shall also be called upon, to make another 
declaration with the same solemnity, 'to support the constitution of 
the United States.' I see the consistency of this, for it cannot but 
have been intended that these constitutions should mutually aid and 
support each other. It is my humble opinion, that, while the com- 
monwealth of Massachusetts maintains her own just authority, 
weight, and dignity, she will be among the firmest pillars of the 
federal union. May the administration of the federal government, 
and those of the several states of the union, be guided by the uner- 
ring finger of Heaven ! Each of them, and all of them, united, will 
then, if the people are wise, be as prosperous as the wisdom of human 
institutions, and the circumstances of human society will admit." 

The limits of this sketch will not permit us to enter into a detail 
of the public measures of Mr. Adams, while he presided over the 
government of Massachusetts, nor to lay before the reader, those of 
his public writings which would throw light on his peculiar senti- 
ments, as well as on the general history of the country. He con- 
tinued to serve her with undiminished zeal; and it was not until age 
and bodily infirmities rendered him unfit for service, that he retired 
to a private life. This retirement, however, he did not long enjoy, 
but within a few years passed quietly to his grave. He expired on 
the third of October, 1803, in the eighty-second year of his age. 

Of the peculiar character and dispositions of Mr. Adams, the 
reader will have formed a tolerably correct opinion from what has 
been recorded in the preceding pages ; and it only remains for us 
briefly to sum up that of which he has already a general idea. In 


person he was of the middle size, with a countenance full of expres- 
sion, and showing the remarkable firmness of his character; in 
manners and deportment, he was sincere and unaffected; in con- 
versation, pleasing and instructive ; and in friendship, steadfast and 
affectionate. As a writer, he was indefatigable when he thought 
his literary efforts could tend to promote his liberal and patriotic 
views; and although most of his productions have suffered that ob- 
livion, to which the best efforts of temporary politics are generally 
destined, those which remain, or of which a knowledge is yet pre- 
served, give abundant proof of the strength and fervour of his dic- 
tion, the soundness of his politics, the warmth of his heart, and the 
piety and sincerity of his devotion. As an orator, he was peculiarly 
fitted for the times and circumstances on which he had fallen. His 
language was pure, concise, and impressive ; he was more logical 
than figurative ; and his arguments were addressed rather to the 
understanding than the feelings : yet these he could often deeply 
interest, when the importance and dignity of his subject led him to 
give free vent to the enthusiasm and patriotic ardour, of which his 
heart was always full ; and if we are to judge by the fairest of all 
tests, the effect upon his hearers, few speakers of ancient or modern 
times, could be named as superior to him. As a statesman, the 
great trait in the character of Mr. Adams, was the unyielding firm- 
ness with which he pursued the course which his judgment had de- 
termined to be the correct one. He possessed an energy of will, 
that never faltered. Every part of his character conduced to this 
determination. His private habits, which were simple, frugal, and 
unostentatious, led him to despise the luxury and parade affected by 
the crown officers; his religious tenets, which made him loathe the 
very name of the English church, preserved in his mind the memory 
of ancient persecutions, as vividly as if they had happened yester- 
day, and as anxiously as if they might be repeated to-morrow ; his 
detestation of royalty, and privileged classes, which no man could 
have felt more deeply — all these circumstances stimulated him to 
persevere in a course, which he conscientiously believed it to be his 
duty to pursue, for the welfare of his country. The motives by 
which he was actuated, were not a sudden ebullition of temper, nor 
a transient impulse of resentment; but they were deliberate, me- 
thodical, and unyielding. There was no pause, no despondency ; 
every day and every hour were employed in some contribution to- 
wards the main design; if not in action, in writing; if not with the 
pen, in conversation ; if not in talking, in meditation. The means 
4 C 


he advised were persuasion, petition, remonstrance, resolutions; and, 
when all failed, defiance and extermination, sooner than submission. 
His measures for redress were all legitimate; and where the ex- 
tremity of the case, as in the destruction of the tea, absolutely re- 
quired an irregularity, a vigour beyond the law, he was desirous it 
might be redeemed by the discipline, good order, and scrupulous 
integrity, with which it should be effected. 

The very faults of his character tended, in some degree, to render 
his services more useful, by converging his exertions to one point, 
and preventing their being weakened by indulgence or liberality 
towards different opinions. There was some tinge of bigotry and 
narrowness both in his religion and politics. He was a strict Calvin- 
ist ; and probably, no individual of his day had so much of the feel- 
ings of the ancient Puritans as he possessed. In politics, he was so 
jealous of delegated power, that he would not have given our con- 
stitutions inherent force enough for their own preservation. He at- 
tached an exclusive value to the habits and principles in which he 
had been educated, and wished to adjust wide concerns too closely 
after a particular model. One of his colleagues, who knew him 
well, and estimated him highly, described him, with good-natured 
exaggeration, in the following manner : " Samuel Adams would 
have the state of Massachusetts govern the union, the town of Bos- 
ton govern Massachusetts, and that he should govern the town of 
Boston, and then the whole would not be intentionally ill-governed." 

With this somewhat austere spirit, however, there was nothing 
ferocious, nor gloomy, nor arrogant in his demeanour. His aspect 
was mild, dignified, and gentlemanly. In his own state, or in the 
congress of the union, he was always the advocate of the strongest 
measures ; and in the darkest hour, he never wavered nor desponded. 
He engaged in the cause with all the zeal of a reformer, the confi- 
dence of an enthusiast, and the cheerfulness of a voluntary martyr. 
It was not by brilliancy of talents, nor profoundness of learning, that 
he rendered such essential service to the cause of the revolution ; 
but by his resolute decision, his unceasing watchfulness, and his he- 
roic perseverance. In addition to these qualities, his efforts were 
consecrated by his entire superiority to pecuniary considerations ; 
he, like most of his colleagues, proved the nobleness of the cause, 
by the virtue of his conduct : and Samuel Adams, after being so 
many years in the public service, and having filled so many eminent 
stations, must have been buried at the public expense, if the afflict- 
ing death of an only son had not remedied this honourable poverty. 




John Adams was engaged, during the greater part of his life, so 
actively in public affairs, that the incidents of his career are insepa- 
rably blended with the history of the colony which claimed him for 
her son, and of the nation which honoured him as a father. He 
was fourth in descent from Henry Adams, who, according to the 
quaint inscription on his tomb at Quincy, " Took his flight from the 
dragon Persecution in Devonshire, England, and alighted with eight 
sons near Mount Wollaston ;" and he was also descended from John 
Alden, one of that pilgrim-band who first landed on Plymouth Rock, 
seeking an asylum for religious and civil freedom among the forests 
of the new world. 

John Adams was born at Quincy, near Boston, on the nineteenth 
of October, (O. S.,) 1735. His worthy father very soon perceiving. 
in his boy, a strong love of reading and of knowledge, and marks 
of great strength and activity of intellect, took proper care to give 
him every attainable advantage of education. 

His boyish studies were prosecuted in Braintree. In 1751, he 
was admitted a member of Harvard College at Cambridge, where 
he was regularly graduated, four years afterwards. Of his colle- 
giate reputation little is known at present, most of his classmates 
having preceded him to the grave ; but one of them, the pious and 
learned Dr. Hemmenway, often spoke of the honesty, openness, and 
decision of character that distinguished him, of which he told many 
characteristic anecdotes. 

After completing his academic course, he repaired to Worcester 
for the purpose of studying the law, and according to the established 
usage of New England, began at once to support himself by his own 
exertions. He taught in the grammar school of that town, and pur- 
sued his legal studies at the same time under the direction of Mr 
Putnam, a barrister of eminence. 

It was certainly as early in his life as this residence at Worces- 
ter, when his thoughts began to turn on general politics, and the 



prospects of his country occupied his attention. A letter that he 
wrote very soon after leaving college has been preserved ; and 
evinces so remarkable a forecast, and such a comprehensive range 
of speculation, that it deserves an attentive perusal. It was dated 
at Worcester, on the twelfth of October, 1755, and is in these words : 
" Soon after the reformation, a few people came over into this new 
world for conscience sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident 
may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely 
to me if we can remove the turbulent Gallics, our people, accord- 
ing to the exactest computations, will in another century become 
more numerous than England herself. Should this be the case, 
since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our 
hands, it will be easy to obtain the mastery of the seas; and then 
the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The 
only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves, is to disunite us. 
Divide et impera. Keep us in distinct colonies, and then some great 
men in each colony desiring the monarchy of the whole, they will 
destroy each other's influence, and keep the country in equilibrio." 

In 1758 he was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in 
Braintree ; but his first considerable effort, which was encouraging 
and successful, was made at Plymouth, in a jury trial and a criminal 

In 1761, Mr. Adams was admitted to the rank of a barrister, and 
continued to advance in professional reputation. In Boston and its 
vicinity, the attention of all men possessed of public spirit and en- 
larged views was, however, now very much engrossed by the con- 
tentions between the provincial assembly and the royal governor, 
which assumed a shape and importance more alarming than before. 

The year 1764 was attended with the excitement produced by 
the act imposing duties of export and import, and the announcement 
of an intention to impose stamp duties upon the colonies. 

Mr. Adams was occupied, during a part of this year of alarm and 
ferment, in gentler cares than political controversy, for it was at 
this period that he was united to Abigail, the daughter of the Rev. 
William Smith, his faithful and most amiable partner during fifty- 
four years of conjugal union. To this accomplished and excellent 
lady he owed much of the felicity of his life ; with true sympathy in 
his feelings she unrepiningly submitted to the frequent separations 
which his devotion to the general cause occasioned ; and he fully 
appreciated her worth, and could never, in the heaviest trials of his 
life, speak of her without emotions of tenderness and gratitude, that 


would suffuse his eyes and impede his utterance. There has been 
preserved a letter written by her to a friend, at one of the most 
gloomy periods of the war, in which she thus expresses the noble 
patriotism which she cherished in common with her husband. " Hea- 
ven is our witness, that we do not rejoice in the effusion of blood or 
the carnage of the human species ; but having been forced to draw 
the sword, we are determined never to sheathe it slaves of Britain. 
Our cause, sir, is, I trust, the cause of truth and justice, and will 
finally prevail, though the combined force of earth and hell shall rise 
against it. To this cause I have sacrificed much of my own per- 
sonal happiness, by giving up to the councils of America one of my 
nearest connections, and living for more than three years in a state 
of widowhood." 

In 1764, a town meeting at Boston suggested the plan of a con- 
vention of the colonies, but nothing more was at that time done 
towards, such a measure. Petitions and remonstrances were sent 
to England, and great confidence was entertained that the parlia- 
ment would be convinced, as the colonists were, that the power 
of taxing resided constitutionally in the colonial assembly, and no 
where else. In these fond hopes they were however destined to be 
disappointed; for in February 1765, the stamp act, proposed at a 
former session of parliament, was passed. 

Mr. Adams now appeared before the public by publishing his 
" Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law," a performance of very 
remarkable power and eloquence, in which he made a bold and un- 
disguised appeal to the spirit of the people, against the attempt to 
establish the unlimited control of the parliament. 

This composition, written in a style of uncommon nervousness 
and vivacity, is an argument founded on the assertion that mo- 
narchy, in the earliest and most ignorant ages, was the universal 
form of government; but as the people became more enlightened, 
they in the same proportion became more free : the love of power 
has been often the cause of slavery, but sometimes the cause of 
freedom. " If it is this principle, that has always prompted the 
princes and nobles of the earth, by every species of fraud and vio- 
lence, to shake off all the limitations of their power ; it is the same 
that has always stimulated the common people to aspire at inde- 
pendency, and to endeavour at confining the power of the great 
within the limits of equity and reason." 

The publication of this admirable work brought him rapidly for- 
ward into general notice, and in the same year he was associated 
c 2 


with Otis and other master spirits in appearing before the governor 
and council, and arguing there that the courts should administer 
justice without stamped paper. 

He was not a member of the congress which met at New York, 
in October 1765, to consult and prepare new petitions, and adjourn. 
But he had now become a public man, and was associated with 
Robert Treat Paine, Otis, Quincy, Samuel Adams, and other dis- 
tinguished patriots, all older than himself, in every endeavour to 
counteract the schemes of the ministry. 

Under the influence of such men, the general assembly would 
probably have been impelled into very bold and perhaps very rash 
measures ; if the news of George Greenville's dismissal, and the re- 
peal of the stamp act, had not for the time removed the necessity 
of immediate decision. 

In 1766, he removed his residence to the town of Boston, still 
continuing his attendance on the neigbouring circuits, and not un- 
frequently called to remote parts of the province. 

The repeal of the stamp act, and the accession of Lord Chatham 
to the ministry, would perhaps have quieted the discontents in Mas- 
sachusetts ; had it not been for the declaratory act that parliament 
had been induced by a false pride to attach to the repeal, claiming 
the right to tax the colonies, although for the present they chose to 
postpone its exercise. 

There were, however, abundant sources of controversy between 
Governor Bernard and the people, among which the introduction of 
two regiments of king's troops into the town of Boston, was not the 
least irritating. 

Mr. Adams persevered with his friends Warren, Otis, Thatcher 
and others, as well as his distinguished namesake Samuel Adams, 
in their labours, such as he bad proposed in his Essay on the Canon 
and Feudal Law. In the year 1768 the importance of his services, 
and the influence of his writings had become so well known and ap- 
preciated, as to induce Governor Bernard to think him worth buy- 
ing over ; and to make the same attempt with him, which we have 
already seen was tried without success on Hancock and Samuel 
Adams. For this purpose his intimate personal friend Sewall, the 
recently appointed attorney general, was commissioned by the gov- 
ernor to offer him the appointment of advocate general in the court 
of admiralty, a very lucrative office at that period. He was then 
but in his thirty-third year, with an increasing family to support ; 
the office tendered to his acceptance would have been a promotion 


in the line of his profession, would have insured him a considerable 
income, and required no direct abandonment of his friends or his 
principles; but he could not bear to be put in any sort of trammels, 
he considered the offer as merely insidious, and peremptorily de- 
clined it. 

He was chosen by the citizens of Boston, in 17G9, one of a com- 
mittee, which was appointed, according to a custom of the time, 
before alluded to, to prepare instructions to their representatives; 
and the instructions drawn up accordingly, were full of opposition 
to the measures of the governor, and particularly were aimed 
against allowing the troops to remain in the town. 

The soldiers were not removed, however, and a series of squab- 
bles between them and the towns-people led finally to the bloody 
affray, on the fifth of March, 1770, commonly designated as "the 
massacre." The principal circumstances which caused and attended 
this event, have been already described with sufficient minuteness 
in a previous biography. 

In consequence of the spirited and determined remonstrance of 
the committee appointed by the citizens of Boston, by their chair- 
man, the Aristides of the revolution, Samuel Adams, — not only 
were the soldiers removed from the town, but the supremacy of the 
civil power was maintained by the arrest, indictment, and trial of 
the actual offenders. Mr. Adams was applied to on behalf of Cap- 
tain Preston, the officer who was charged with giving the fatal order 
to fire upon the people, and the private soldiers who were indicted 
with him, to undertake their defence. It was a touchstone applied 
to his firmness and his professional pride. The people were still 
clamorous against the soldiers, and he was a man of the people, 
living for them and among them. The governor's party anxiously 
desired to screen the offenders from punishment ; would not a lawyer 
appearing for such a defence, be suspected of deserting the popular 
cause? Such considerations might have deterred a man of less 
moral courage, but Mr. Adams was above their influence. He could 
afford to perform a professional duty without endangering his politi- 
cal standing. Two years only had elapsed since he rejected the 
offer of a lucrative and distinguished governmental appointment; 
he could not be suspected, after that, of wishing to truckle to the 
men in power. The main point heing gained by the removal of the 
troops out of the town, men of liberal feelings could have no desire 
to visit the sins of the commanders upon the ignorant soldiers, by 
any vindictive exercise of the civil power. The great offence had 


been the presence of the military in the town, for which the author- 
ities alone were answerable; that soldiers, being there, should be 
dissolute, insolent and quarrelsome, was to be expected. Mr. Adams, 
therefore, thwarted no secret wishes of his own, in contributing to 
the defence of the accused. He conducted it with the zeal and 
vigour that marked all his actions, and with an ability and eloquence 
that elicited universal applause. 

Notwithstanding the exasperation of feeling among the towns- 
people, from whom the jury was to be taken, Captain Preston was 
acquitted, on account of a want of positive evidence to criminate 
him as the author of the mischief; and two only of the soldiers, upon 
whom the act of firing, after much provocation, was proved, were 
convicted of manslaughter, and praying the benefit of clergy, were 
branded with a hot iron and dismissed. 

That Mr. Adams lost no favour with his fellow-citizens by en 
gaging in this trial, is proved by the circumstance of his being, in 
the same year, elected one of the representatives in the general 

The session of the assembly which ensued was marked by a per- 
tinacious contest between the house and the acting governor, Hutch- 
inson, on the subject of holding the "General Court," as it was 
called, in Cambridge instead of Boston. The assembly insisted or 
returning to Boston, from which the sessions had been removed bj 
Governor Bernard; and refused to proceed in any business untf 
their return to the ancient place of meeting should be agreed to 
The lieutenant governor pleaded his instructions ; but was attacked 
irresistibly on that ground, with the argument that no instructions 
from England could countervail the charter. He hinted at his power 
as commander-in-chief, but then laid himself open to the whole 
odium of an arbitrary act. Finally, he refused to adjourn to Bos- 
ton, "without permission of his majesty's ministers." A committee 
of leading men, the elder and younger Adams, Hancock and Haw- 
ley, were appointed to prepare a reply to this undisguised avowal 
of subserviency to ministerial views. The reply is elaborate and 
eloquent, and seems to bear the impress of the same mind from 
which the "Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law" had proceeded. 
The conclusion is a very intelligible warning of what the ministry 
had to expect if they should persevere in their oppressive conduct. 

"We are obliged, at this time, to struggle, with all the powers 
the constitution has furnished us, in defence of our rights; to pre- 
vent the most valuable of our liberties from being wrested from us 


by the subtle machinations and daring encroachments of wicked 
ministers. We have seen, of late, innumerable encroachments on 
our charter; courts of admiralty extended from the high seas, 
where, by the compact in the charter they are confined, to number- 
less important causes upon land; multitudes of civil officers, the 
appointment of whom is, by charter, confined to the governor and 
council, sent here from abroad by the ministry; a revenue, not 
granted by us, but torn from us; armies stationed here without our 
consent; and the streets of our metropolis crimsoned with the blood 
of our fellow-subjects. These, and other grievances and cruelties, 
too many to be here enumerated, and too melancholy to be much 
longer borne by this injured people, we have seen brought upon us, 
by the devices of ministers of state. And we have, of late, seen 
and heard of instructions to governors, which threaten to destroy all 
the remaining privileges of our charter. Should these struggles of 
the house prove unfortunate and ineffectual, this province will sub- 
mit, with pious resignation, to the will of Providence ; but it would 
be a kind of suicide, of which we have the utmost horror, to be in- 
strumental in our own servitude." 

The lieutenant governor's office was certainly no bed of roses at 
this time; he and his coadjutors were overmatched in talent, reso- 
lution and management, by "Adams and the rest;" and the pertur- 
bation of his mind was excessive. At times he advised the use of 
force, then recommended a course of cunning expedients, which he 
designated as " Machiavelian policy ;" imputed to the colonists a 
determination to have a lord lieutenant and an American parlia- 
ment; and suggested a variety of projects for curbing their spirit. 

A new grievance appeared in the dismissal of the troops at "the 
castle," who were under the control and pay of the province, and the 
transfer of that fortress to the custody of the king's forces. This was 
an evil that admitted of no present remedy, but it stimulated to more 
active preparations for resistance, and mainly induced the appoint- 
ment of a committee, of which Mr. Adams was a member, to corres- 
pond with the agents in England, with the speakers of assemblies in 
other colonies, and with committees chosen for a similar purpose. 

In the following year, 1771, Mr. Hutchinson received the appoint- 
ment of governor of Massachusetts, and made some efforts towards 
conciliation ; the Duke of Grafton had resigned, and Lord North 
had rescinded all the obnoxious duties except that on tea. A com- 
parative calm ensued for a short season, and the letters from Frank- 
lin and other Americans in England, held out encouragement to 


hope for the removal of all causes of complaint. The same obsti- 
nate dispute as to the place of holding the sessions of the assembly 
continued, and little public business was transacted in consequence. 
But in 1772, the governor gave up this point, and ordered the long- 
dcsircd return to the town house at Boston. 

He had accepted a provision for the payment of his salary by the 
crown, instead of the province, and nothing could have given greater 
offence. There was also a project, afterwards executed, of pro- 
viding in the same way for the salaries of the judges; and upon 
these two grievances a large town meeting was held, early in 1772, 
at Boston, and very spirited resolutions adopted. 

This ministerial regulation for paying the salaries of the judges, 
which rendered them wholly dependent on the crown, was the occa- 
sion of a discussion in the public papers, between William Brattle, 
senior member of the council, on the one side, and Mr. John Adams 
on the other; written, on the part of Mr. Adams, according to the 
history of the period, "with great learning and ability;" and had a 
happy effect in enlightening the public mind on a question of very 
great importance. 

When the general court met in January, 1773, the new governor 
made an elaborate speech to them in support of the supremacy of 
parliament, and threw out, as the two houses thought, a challenge 
to answer him. This they did forthwith, but he replied in the same 
strain, and put forth so ingenious an argument, that their committee 
thought it necessary to invoke the aid of Mr. John Adams, who was 
not then a member, in preparing a rejoinder. A very eloquent and 
argumentative disquisition was immediately drawn up by him for 
their use, which they adopted at once without alteration; and so 
powerful was'it considered by Dr. Franklin, as an exposition of the 
claims and wrongs of the colonies, that he caused it to be repub- 
lished in England, and distributed there. 

Very shortly after this circumstance he was elected a member of 
the assembly, and being placed by their vote on the list of coun- 
cillors, the governor erased his name, by a vindictive exercise of a 
right incident to his office, but never exercised unless as an expres- 
sion of strong dislike and hostility. 

Early in 1774, Governor Hutchinson resigned his office, and de- 
parted for England. And at the same time his successor, and the 
intelligence of the act of parliament closing the port of 73oston, 
were received, the one with outward civility but universal distrust, 
the othe* with unbounded indignation and alarm. 


The inhabitants of Boston were called together, to consider this 
new and unexampled aggression. It was there voted to make ap- 
plication to the other colonies to refuse all importations from Great 
Britain, and withhold all commercial intercourse, as the most pro- 
bable and effectual mode to procure the repeal of this oppressive 
law. One of the citizens was despatched to New York and Phila- 
delphia, for the purpose of ascertaining the views of the people at 
those places, and in the colonies farther south. A committee, com- 
prising Samuel Adams, Dr. Warren, afterwards General Warren, 
the hero and martyr of Bunker's hill, with John Adams and others 
of the same high character, was appointed to consider what further 
measures ought to be adopted. 

Mr. Adams being again a member of assembly, was put on the 
list for the council, but Governor Gage knew his character well from 
the report of his past conduct, and erased his name, as Hutchinson 
had done before. 

The governor obliged the general court to meet at Salem, instead 
of Boston, where they proceeded, after a very civil address to him, 
to ask for a day of general fast and prayer. This his excellency 
refused. But although he would not let them pray, he could not " 
prevent them from adopting a most important measure, namely, 
that of choosing five delegates to a general and continental congress ; 
and of giving immediate information thereof to all the other colo- 
nies, with a request, that they would appoint deputies for the same 
purpose. The preamble to the resolutions for choosing delegates 
to meet in a general congress, states the object to be, " the recovery 
and establishment of our just rights and liberties, civil and religious ; 
and the restoration of union and harmony between Great Britain 
and America, which is most ardently desired by all good men." 

It was during the consideration of these resolutions, that Samuel 
Adams displayed that firmness of manner, and adopted the bold 
measures to prevent the interference of the governor, which have 
been detailed in the preceding sketch. On all points he was nobly 
supported by the influence, eloquence and energy of his namesake, 
who received with him the fair reward of his fearless patriotism in 
being also elected one of the delegates to the congress. 

It was a noble trust, and one of awful responsibility ; so much so, 
that Mr. Sewall, an old and respectable friend of Mr. Adams, to 
whose advice he had been accustomed to listen with great deference, 
was alarmed on his account, and seeking an interview, endeavoured 
to persuade him to relinquish the appointment. Great Britain, he 


represented, was evidently determined to enforce her system ; her 
power was irresistible, and would bring destruction on him and all 
who should persevere in opposition to her designs. Mr. Adams' 
reply was, that he was well convinced of such a determination on 
the part of the British government, and that his course was fixed by 
that very belief; that he had been uniform and constant in opposi- 
tion; as to his fate the die was cast, the Rubicon was passed — and 
sink or swim, live or die, to survive or perish with his country was 
his unalterable resolution. 

He had now to act on quite a different stage; hitherto he had 
been among friends and neighbours, whose sentiments were fami- 
liarly known to him, and whose firmness he could estimate justly. 
But in meeting with delegates from other and distant colonies, not 
only new acquaintances were to be made, but the extent of their 
public spirit was yet to be ascertained. Boston having been the 
focus of opposition, the politicians of that place were generally sup- 
posed to be more disposed towards extreme and violent measures, 
than those whose situation had been more remote. It was rumoured 
concerning Mr. Adams, as a suspicion unfavourable to his character 
• for discretion and judgment, that he sought to produce a separation 
of the colonies from England, and the establishment of an indepen- 
dent government; a plan that had seemed in the eyes of most of his 
co-patriots excessively rash and inexpedient. He received various 
hints on this subject, and was warned during his journey to Phila- 
delphia in September, by several friendly advisers, that he and his 
colleagues should be careful not to utter a word in favour of inde- 
pendence ; and being already seriously suspected of such designs, 
they should, in prudence, avoid all appearance of taking a lead in 
the proceedings of the congress; but ought rather to yield prece- 
dence to the Virginia gentlemen who represented the largest colony, 
and were not infected with any such wild notions. 

Mr. Adams found the inhabitants of Philadelphia generally pre- 
pared to look upon him as an over zealous enthusiast, rather to be 
admired for his generous ardour, than trusted for political wisdom. 
If such was the light in which he appeared to most of the delegates 
to whom he was yet personally a stranger, he found at least in 
Patrick Henry, and Thomas M'Kean, if in no others, a congeniality 
of feeling as complete as had existed between him and any one of 
his colleagues, or the exasperated patriots that he had left in Boston. 

The proceedings of this congress are well known, and their cha- 
racter has been the theme of well deserved eulogy from many elo- 


quent writers on both sides of the Atlantic. The public papers that 
were issued by them, drew from Lord Chatham the compliment, 
" that he had studied and admired the free states of antiquity, the 
master spirits of the world ; but that for solidity of reasoning-, force 
of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, no body of men could stand 
in preference to this congress." 

Mr. Adams had the satisfaction to see the principle, for which 
he had been contending unremittingly and publicly for nine years, 
namely, that parliament possessed no right to tax the colonies, fully 
adopted as the fundamental article of political faith of all the colo- 
nies ; and the most earnest attention paid by the whole congress, to 
the distressful situation of disfranchised Boston. 

The association which was formed by the congress and signed 
first by the members, comprising a non-importation, non-exporta- 
tion, and non-consumption agreement was, Mr. Adams thought, the 
best measure that could then be adopted, in conjunction with the 
able and eloquent addresses to the king and the British people; but 
he did not very confidently hope, that these expedients would have 
the desired effect on the obduracy of the royal government. 

"When congress had finished their business, as they thought," 
said Mr. Adams, on this subject, in a letter written in advanced 
age, "in the autumn of 1774, I had with Mr. Henry, before we 
took leave of each other, some familiar conversation, in which ] 
expressed a full conviction that our resolves, declaration of rights, 
enumeration of wrongs, petitions, remonstrances, and addresses, 
associations, and non-importation agreements, however they might 
be respected in America, and however necessary to cement the union 
of the colonies, would be but waste water in England. Mr. Henry 
said, they might make some impression among the people of Eng- 
land, but agreed with me that they would be totally lost upon the 
government. I had but just received a short and hasty letter, writ- 
ten to me by Major Joseph Hawley of Northampton, containing ' a 
few broken hints,' as he called them, of what he thought was pro- 
per to be done, and concluding with these words, ' after all we must 
fight.' This letter I read to Mr. Henry, who listened with great 
attention; and as soon as I had pronounced the words, 'after all 
we must fight,' he raised his head, and with an energy and vehe- 
mence that I can never forget, broke out with, ' By G — d, I am of 
that man's mind.' I put the letter into his hand, and when he had 
read it he returned it to me, with an equally solemn asseveration 
that he agreed entirely in opinion with the writer. 


" The other delegates from Virginia returned to their state in 
full confidence, that all our grievances would be redressed. The last 
words that Mr. Richard Henry Lee said to me, when we parted, 
were, ' we shall infallibly carry all our points. You will be com- 
pletely relieved ; all the offensive acts will be repealed ; the army 
and fleet will be recalled, and Britain will give up her foolish project.' 

" Washington only was in doubt. He never spoke in public. In 
private he joined with those who advocated a non-exportation, as 
well as a non-importation agreement. With both he thought we 
should prevail ; without either he thought it doubtful. Henry was 
clear in one opinion, Richard Henry Lee in an opposite opinion, 
and Washington doubted between the two." 

These were, doubtless, generous anticipations, founded on a 
mistaken confidence in the magnanimity and wisdom of the British 
rulers. But they did not deserve the compliment ; the ministry were 
at that time more than commonly deficient in both these qualities ; 
they and the people of England were equally ignorant of the condi- 
tion, the history, and the feelings of America ; the Americans were 
known to the British people only by the transactions of commerce. 

A short time dissipated the illusion and showed the necessity of 
another session of congress, and of more vigorous measures. 

The people of Massachusetts had at this period, the proud satis- 
faction of being the most immediate objects of ministerial ven- 
geance. The former government was by this time dissolved, and 
a provincial congress had assembled, and in December of the same 
year, said, very truly, to the inhabitants, " you are placed by Pro- 
vidence in a post of honour, because it is a post of danger ; and 
while struggling for the noblest objects, the liberties of our country, 
the happiness of posterity, and the rights of human nature, the eyes 
not only of North America and the whole British empire, but of all 
Europe are upon you." 

Perhaps it would be adopting too early a date for this revolution, 
in the minds of the Americans, to place it so soon as the close of 
the year 1774 ; the ensuing season produced great events, which 
materially advanced the cause of freedom. 

The situation of Massachusetts was, at this period, very remark- 
able ; without government, and deprived of trade, die spirit which 
the leading patriots had infused into the people, sustained their 
firmness, and kept them within the bounds of regularity and order 
better than the most rigid police could have done. A letter written 
by an intelligent gentleman of Boston, at this date, to a friend in 


England, contains the following picture. " The state of this pro- 
vince is a great curiosity; I wish the pen of some able historian 
may transmit it to posterity. Four hundred thousand people are 
in a state of nature, and yet as still and peaceable at present as 
ever they were when government was in full vigour. We have 
neither legislators nor magistrates, nor executive officers. We 
have no officers but military ones. Of these we have a multitude 
chosen by the people, and exercising them with more authority and 
spirit than ever any did who had commissions from a governor." 

After an active and busy session, the first congress adjourned in 
November, and Mr. Adams returned to his home and family. 

The provincial congress, on the fifth of December, re-appointed 
him with his colleagues, except Bowdoin, in whose place they sub- 
stituted John Hancock, to represent them at the ensuing session, 
to be held in the next May. 

Mr. Adams found there was now a new occasion for the exercise 
of his talents as a controversial writer, which had been so signally 
displayed before ; his friend Sewall, who, being attorney general, 
naturally took the ministerial side in the disputes, had been publish- 
ing a series of very able essays under the name of Massachusitensis, 
arguing for the supreme authority of the parliament, and against 
the present revolutionary proceedings. 

He at once and willingly took up the gauntlet, and maintained 
the justice and wisdom of the whig proceedings and doctrine, in a 
series of answers, under the title of " Novanglus." These papers 
are written with so much animation, and with such a display of 
minute knowledge of the colonial history and of general erudition, 
that even now they are attractive and interesting ; the powerful 
influence which they must have had when the topics were fresh, 
and the readers had so much stake in the question discussed in 
them, cannot be estimated too highly. 

These papers manifest great ability ; but it is curious to observe, 
that even such a writer, at such a time, was obliged to disavow all 
desire for independence. 

" 'The scheme of the whigs flattered the people with the desire 
for independence ; the tories' plan supposed a degree of subordina- 
tion.' This is artful enough, as usual, not to say Jesuitical. The 
word independence is one of those, which this writer uses, as he 
does treason and rebellion, to impose upon the undistinguishing on 
both sides of the Atlantic. But let us take him to pieces. What 
does he mean by independence? Does he mean independent of the 


crown of Great Britain, and an independent republic in America, 
or a confederation of independent republics ? No doubt he intended 
the undistinguishing should understand him so. If he did, nothing 
can be more wicked, or a greater slander on the whigs ; because 
he knows there is not a man in the province, among the whigs, nor 
ever was, who harbours a wish of that sort." 

But although he was thus cautious not to injure the cause of 
freedom by too precipitately urging that scheme of independence 
which must have been in his own contemplation, yet he did not fear 
to remind the people of the "massacre" committed by those sol- 
diers whom he had defended in 1770, notwithstanding it might have 
been thought a subject dangerous to his own personal popularity. 

Of all these essays, the most ingenious and characteristic, is one 
which comprises a grave, elaborate and learned justification of the 
destruction of the tea in the year 1773. This famous occurrence 
had been generally allowed to be merely excusable as an effer- 
vescence of honest and patriotic feelings, exhibiting themselves in 
a manner chargeable with some irregularity. The gentlemen who 
personated the Indians and made the " oblation to Neptune," as it 
is sometimes called, retained their disguise after all danger from 
the vengeance of the royal government had passed away. But 
Mr. Adams in the paper referred to, far from admitting the neces- 
sity of any concealment, contended with great eloquence, minute 
historical detail, and a display of considerable research, in favour 
of the absolute propriety and legality of the transaction. 

In support of the general position that tumultuous and violent 
proceedings were some times lawful expedients in times of peace, 
he cited the authority of Grotius, PufFendorf, Locke, Barbeyrac and 
other philosophers, and argued from their opinions, and the peculiar 
circumstances of the case, that the tea was thrown into the water 
in strict conformity with the most punctilious rules of propriety.* 

The publication of "Novanglus" was interrupted by the un- 
expected skirmish at Lexington, in which the first blood was drawn 
in the revolutionary contest. There was after this day little oppor- 
tunity to write, and still less composure of spirits to read elaborate 
disquisitions upon historical or legal questions. Still, however, the 

*It should be kept in mind, that this justification of turbulence was an unneces- 
sary addition to the revolutionary extremity which vindicated it. The position, that 
" tumultuous and violent proceedings are sometimes lawful expedients in time of 
peace," will receive the sanction of no well-regulated mind in the present age. 


deep-rooted attachment to the English constitution and the voyal 
government, was not overcome ; independence was yet a " word 
unmusical to American ears ;" and it is remarkable that so generally 
did the people discriminate between the ministry whose designs 
they intended to oppose, and the king to whom they still desired 
to be faithful, that at Concord and Lexington, the militia that had 
been engaged in an actual battle with the royal forces, were called 
"king's troops," and the regular soldiers were termed "Bute's 
men ;" in allusion to Lord Bute, who was then supposed to exercise 
a controlling and pernicious influence over the mind of the monarch. 
Notwithstanding the prohibition contained in a proclamation 
from Lord Dartmouth, the secretary of state for American affairs, 
the new congress assembled at Philadelphia on the tenth of May, 
and Mr. Adams had the pleasure of again meeting his southern 
friends, and of forming some valuable acquaintances among the 
members that had not been there before. 

The most important step taken at this session ; at least the 
measure that will appear the most memorable in the eyes of pos- 
terity, was the appointment of George Washington as commander- 
in-chief of the armies to be raised in defence of American liberty. 
This most felicitous choice of a leader was suggested, advocated 
and produced by Mr. Adams ; and if he had no other claim to 
national gratitude, that alone should be sufficient. If this appoint- 
ment was the consequence of a " providential inspiration," as the 
great and good Fayette has eloquently declared, it was through 
Mr. Adams the inspiration was received, to which this nation owes 
the blessing of having had, so early, such a leader, and of still 
possessing the benefit of his example for us and our posterity. 

There are many reasons for rejoicing that this choice was suggest- 
ed, and that the suggestion was adopted. The tone and character 
of the revolutionary struggle, on the part of the Americans, were 
elevated and dignified by the exalted virtues that Washington 
brought into association with it. The world looked then upon the 
conduct of the rebels with more respect, as they became acquainted 
with his character ; and we, as well as those who shall come after 
us, cannot but regard that era with a more intense interest, because 
it is connected, besides its other glorious associations, with the name 
of him who must continue to be "first in the hearts of his country- 

And well may Americans cherish the glory of that name; for the 
whole range of history does not present to our view a character 
6 v 2 


upon which we can dwell with such entire and unmixed admiration. 
The long life of Washington is not stained by a single blot. He 
was indeed a man of such rare endowments, and such fortunate 
temperament, that every action he performed was stamped with a 
striking and peculiar propriety. His qualities were so happily 
blended, and so nicely harmonized, that the result was a great and 
perfect whole. The powers of his mind, and the dispositions of 
his heart were admirably suited to each other. It was the union 
of the most consummate prudence with the most perfect moderation. 
His views, though large and liberal, were never extravagant ; his 
virtues, though comprehensive and beneficent, were discriminating, 
judicious and practical. His conduct was, on all occasions, guided 
by the most pure disinterestedness. Far superior to low and 
grovelling motives, he seemed to be uninfluenced by that ambition, 
which has justly been called the instinct of great souls. He acted 
ever as if his country's welfare, and that alone, was the moving 
spring. His excellent mind needed not even the stimulus of 
ambition, or the prospect of fame. Glory was but a secondary 
consideration. He performed great actions, he persevered in a 
course of laborious utility, with an equanimity that neither sought 
distinction, nor was flattered by it. His reward was in the con- 
sciousness of his own rectitude, and in the success of his patriotic 

It is a fact extremely characteristic of the purity and dignity that 
marked the proceedings of this congress, that although the selection 
of Washington for the chief command was preconcerted, at the 
suggestion of Mr. Adams, the object of their choice knew nothing 
of it until he was actually nominated in formal session, and elected 
by an unanimous ballot. The motive and the manner of this elec- 
tion, the suggestion, the preconcert, the nomination, the unanimous 
ballot and the modest acceptance of it, were all consistent with the 
virtuous aim and elevated character of the public body that con- 
ferred, and the individual that received this high, sacred and un- 
exampled trust. 

The only army that the united colonies had at this time, was 
the collection of New England militia hastily drawn together near 
Boston, in consequence of the aggressions committed by the British 
troops in Concord and Lexington. These raw and yet unorganized 
levies were commanded by the militia general officers of Massachu- 
setts, and the neighbouring colonies. The southern colonies bore 
no part in the expense of this half-armed crowd, which scarcely 


deserved to be called an array. It was a question of serious mo- 
ment, whether a continental army should be raised for the general 
defence, while a reconciliation was still looked to as not merely 
desirable, but extremely probable. The project of establishing 
such a force was a favourite object with the New England delegates, 
and General Arlemus Ward of Massachusetts was in their contem- 
plation as the most suitable person to be entrusted with the chief 

Mr. Adams suggested to his colleagues the expediency and pro- 
priety of setting aside local partialities, and appointing Colonel 
George Washington. The proposition was not at first at all re- 
lished ; it was received indeed with extreme disapprobation. To 
elevate an entire stranger, a man not then in military life, and who 
never had held a military rank higher than that of colonel, over the 
heads of meritorious officers of the highest rank in the militia, and 
those actually in the field at the head of brigades and divisions, 
seemed to be so irregular, so disrespectful to their own officers, 
and so likely to give offence to the people at large, that the eastern 
delegates could not at first give their assent to the proposition. 
Mr. Adams, however, had a clear perception of the advantages that 
would be derived out of the services of Washington, whose character 
and peculiar fitness for the chief command, he justly appreciated. 
He was above all local jealousy, and did not deprecate the possibi- 
lity of the chief honours of victory being gained by a Virginian. 

But it was not without great efforts made by him, and Samuel 
Adams his distinguished colleague, whom he first won over to his 
views on this subject, that a sufficient number of the members were 
prepared to assent to the appointment. When he thought the ma- 
jority was secured, he rose in congress and moved for the appoint- 
ment of a commander-in-chief of the armies raised and to be raised, 
in defence of American liberty. A few only of the members knew 
whom he was going to propose, when he sketched a description of 
the qualities that ought to be combined in the individual selected 
for this elevated office ; and when at length he concluded by nomi- 
nating ' George Washington of Virginia,' the surprise of a large 
portion of those present was extreme, and by no one was it less an- 
ticipated than by Washington himself. The proposal was seconded 
by Samuel Adams, but no vote was taken until the next day, when 
the unanimous choice was made in conformity with this nomination. 

Such is the true history of this memorable event, and the import- 
ant agency of Mr. Adams in this most happy selection, is a striking 


proof of his libera! and truly national feelings, his excellent discern- 
ment, and his unbounded influence not only with the delegates from 
the eastern states, but with the whole congress, in obtaining the 
unanimous vote, but also with the militia officers, the legislative 
authorities, and the people of New England, whose cheerful acqui- 
escence immediately followed. 

The expulsion of the British army from Boston by the militia 
force under General Washington in the ensuing autumn, spread 
new confidence through the land ; and early in 1776, it became 
evident that petitions and remonstrances, however able, argumen- 
tative or eloquent, were not the best means of deterring the mi- 
nistry and parliament from prosecuting their oppressive schemes. 
The act declaring the province of Massachusetts out of the king's 
protection, cut the tie which had held the colonies to the mother 
country ; and the intelligence of treaties with German princes, for 
subsidiary troops to be employed in America, spoke a warning that 
could not be misunderstood. 

Mr. Adams had, in deference to the prudential advice that he 
received at the time of the first meeting of congress, restrained 
himself from urging measures which might seem premature in the 
eyes of his southern friends ; but the posture of affairs had now 
materially changed, and he came forward in congress with a reso- 
lution that was almost equivalent to an assertion of independence. 
On the sixth of May, he offered in committee of the whole, a resolve 
that the colonies should form governments independent of the crown. 
The shape in which this proposition was adopted on the tenth, was 
a recommendation to the respective assemblies and conventions of 
the united colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies 
of their affairs had been yet established, to adopt such government 
as might, in their opinion, best conduce to the safety and happiness 
of their constituents in particular, and America in general. On the 
same day the Massachusetts house of representatives voted a re- 
solution that if the congress should think proper to declare inde- 
pendence, they were ready to support it to the utmost of their lives 
and fortunes. 

How far this bold avowal of their feelings was prompted by 
letters from their delegates in congress, is not known, but the dates 
seem to correspond as if there had been a mutual understanding. 
Mr. Adams made his first movement in congress only a few days 
before this step was taken by the state, and five days subsequently 
to the Massachusetts declaration, he reported and advocated a pre- 


amble for the resolution already passed, in which it was declared 
that, " whereas his Britannic majesty, in conjunction with the lords 
and commons of Great Britain, has, by a late act of parliament, 
excluded the inhabitants of these united colonies from the protection 
of his crown ; and whereas no answer whatever, to the humble 
petitions of the colonies, for redress of grievances and reconciliation 
tvith Great Britain, has been or is likely to be given, but the whole 
force of that kingdom, aided by foreign mercenaries, is to be exerted 
for the destruction of the good people of these colonies ; and where- 
as it appears absolutely irreconcilable to reason and good conscience, 
for the people of these colonies now to take the oaths and affirma- 
tions necessary for the support of any government under the crown 
of Great Britain, and it is necessary that the exercise of every kind 
of authority under the said crown should be totally suppressed, and 
all the powers of government exerted under the authority of the 
people of the colonies, for the preservation of internal peace, virtue 
and good order, as well as for the defence of their lives, liberties, 
and properties, against the hostile invasions and cruel depredations 
of their enemies." 

This preamble was adopted, after an animated debate, and not 
without vehement opposition. It was published, and served as an 
appeal to the people of all the colonies. North Carolina alone had 
yet come out with an explicit desire for independence ; but soon after 
this preamble was promulgated, the others followed successively. 

The only question that seemed now to be left open, related to the 
time to be chosen for issuing a declaration of independence, and 
thus enabling. the united colonies to take their station among the 
powers of the earth. 

The Virginia convention having directed their delegates to bring 
forward the proposal, Mr. Lee was chosen by the gentlemen from 
Virginia to be their organ' in obeying the instructions from their 
constituents. The motion was made, as is well known, on the 
seventeenth of June, and debated with great warmth until the se- 
cond of July. 

The discussion did not consist of formal prepared orations, nor 
flights of rhetoric. The late governor M'Kean, who was himself an 
active and efficient supporter of independence, said, " I do not recol- 
lect any formal speeches, such as are made in the British parliament 
and our late congress, to have been made in the revolutionary 
congress. We had no time to hear such speeches, little for delibe- 
ration — action was the order of the day." 


Of the pre-eminent importance of Mr. Adams' exertions, we 
have the most direct and unequivocal testimony. Mr. Jefferson uni- 
formly and emphatically declared that he had no equal. "John 
Adams," said he, on one occasion, "was our Colossus on the floor; 
not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public addresses, 
he yet came out with a power both of thought and of expression 
that moved us from our seats." At another time, speaking of the 
Declaration of Independence, the same great man observed, that 
"John Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor of congress; 
its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it 

What, then, was the character of the eloquence that was thus dis- 
tinguished in an assembly where Jefferson and Lee, M'Kcan and 
Wilson, Chase and Samuel Adams, and many others of extraordi- 
nary abilities, were convened? "The eloquence of Mr. Adams," 
says an illustrious citizen of the same state, " resembled his gene- 
ral character. It was bold, manly and energetic, but such as the 
crisis required." 

While Mr. Adams was thus lending his whole soul to the advance- 
ment of the measure, he was also a member of the committee 
which had been appointed, in anticipation, to prepare a suitable 
manifesto or declaration to be issued whenever the question should 
be decided. The proposition having come from the Virginia dele- 
gates, in conformity with instructions from the convention of the 
people at Williamsburg, and thus wearing the appearance of a 
popular rather than a congressional movement, the policy had been 
carefully observed of placing a Virginia member at the head of this 
committee. Mr. Lee, who was at that time the most prominent 
delegate from that colony, had been called home by illness in his 
family ; Mr. Jefferson, then a young member, but high in reputa- 
tion as a writer and a patriot, was chbsen in his stead, and Mr. 
Adams was named the next in order, and above the venerable 
Franklin, on the list. 

Mr. Adams very willingly relinquished to his junior colleague of 
the committee the honour of composing the paper, while he gave 
his own undivided attention to the arguments on the floor, and the 
management out of doors, that he knew were requisite to secure 
the success of the proposition ; being more anxious for the esta- 
blishment of independence, than solicitous to distinguish his name 
by connecting it particularly with a document that he well knew 
would be read by remote posterity. 


It was not only within the walls of the state house of Philadel- 
phia, that his influence was felt on this momentous occasion. Penn- 
sylvania and Maryland still withheld their assent from the proposed 
separation from Great Britain; and it was necessary to procure 
from those colonies, some expression of public will, in accord with 
those demonstrations which had heen made in most of the others. 

Among his most intimate personal friends were Dr. Rush and 
Mr. Samuel Chase, with both of whom he had contracted an attach- 
ment that endured throughout his life, and caused him always to 
speak of them in the highest terms of praise. At this juncture 
these friends moved in concert, though in different scenes. Mr. 
Chase, whose zeal was not surpassed, left his scat in congress and 
hastened to Maryland, where, in conjunction with Mr. Charles Car- 
roll and other patriots, he stirred up such a number of county meet- 
ings in favour of the cause, that the convention were overpowered, 
and, on the twenty-eighth of June, Mr. Chase wrote to Mr. Adams 
from Annapolis — "Friday evening, nine o'clock. I am this moment 
from the house, to procure an express to follow the post, with ai> 
unanimous vote of our convention for independence. See the glo 
rious effect of county instructions. The people have fire; it is no\ 

In the mean time, Dr. Rush, in pursuance of the same pre-con 
cert, moved in the Pennsylvania conference for an expression of a 
similar sentiment. The Pennsylvania vote in favour of indepen 
dence preceded that of Maryland only four days, and the feelings 
of all the colonies had now been authentically expressed. 

On the second day of July, Mr. Adams had the satisfaction U 
see the triumph of his exertions, and the fulfilment of his arden' 
wishes, in the vote for independence, which, on the fourth, wai 
unanimously confirmed, in the adoption and promulgation of the 
immortal manifesto which announced the establishment of a new 
and independent republic. 

The transport of his feelings, the exuberance of his joy, on this 
occasion, may be seen most vividly portrayed in the letter which ho 
wrote to Mrs. Adams on the succeeding day — a letter that is me- 
morable, and now embalmed in American history, simply because 
it is so true and inartificial an effusion of ardent, enlightened, and 
disinterested patriotism. "Yesterday," he says, "the greatest 
question was decided, that was ever debated in America; and 
greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men. A 
resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony, 'that these 


United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent 
states.' The day is passed. The fourth of July, 1776, will be a 
memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe 
it will be celebrated, by succeeding- generations, as the great anni- 
versary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of de- 
liverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought 
to be solemnized with pomps, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, 
bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the 
other, from this time forward for ever. You will think me trans- 
ported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, 
and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declara- 
tion, and support and defend these states; yet, through all the 
gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the 
end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will 
triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not." 

The legislature of Massachusetts elected Mr. Adams, during a 
visit that he made to his friends and family at home, to be a mem- 
ber of the Council. He took his seat and assisted in the delibe- 
rations; but declined the office of chief justice, which they pressed 
upon him, because such duties would interfere with his attendance 
in congress, and he did not choose to abandon the national govern- 
ment which he had so mainly contributed to establish. 

A memorable instance of the great activity of Mr. Adams during 
the critical period which preceded the declaration of independence, 
is to be found in his plan of a constitution for a state or colony, 
drawn up by him and published early in 1776, comprising a code 
of republican principles full and satisfactory, and recommended by 
a style pleasing and familiar. 

Shortly after the disastrous battle on Long Island, the British 
general opened a negotiation with congress. The proposition was 
debated for several days. Mr. Adams opposed it as not likely to 
produce any good result, but was overruled, and a committee was 
appointed, consisting of himself, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Rutledge, 
to visit the British camp. Lord Howe sent as a hostage, one of his 
principal officers, but the three commissioners, to show their con- 
fidence in themselves and their cause, waved the security to be 
derived from such a pledge, and took him with them. They re- 
paired to the British head quarters on Staten Island, opposite 
Amboy, and were conducted to the commander through an army of 
twenty thousand men, arranged on purpose to make the most im- 
posing show, so as to impress the minds of the commissioners with 


a notion of the immense power of the nation with which they were 
waging war. They were, however, too well aware of the design 
with which this display was made, to indulge their enemies by show- 
ing any sign of amazement or nneasiness. 

Lord Howe received them with great courtesy; and after com- 
pliments of civility, he told them that though he could not treat with 
them as a committee of congress, yet, as his powers enabled him 
to confer and consult with any private gentleman of influence in 
the colonies on the means of restoring peace, he was glad of this 
opportunity of conferring with them on this subject, if they thought 
themselves at liberty to confer with him in that character. The 
committee observed, that as they came to hear, he might consider 
them in what light he pleased, and communicate any propositions 
he might be authorized to make, but that they could consider them- 
selves in no other character except that in which they were placed 
by order of congress. " You may view me in any light you please,''' 
said Mr. Adams, "except in that of a British subject." 

Lord Howe then entered into a discourse of considerable length, 
in which the commissioners could perceive no explicit proposition, 
except one, namely, that the colonics should return to their alle- 
giance and obedience to the government of Great Britain. 

The committee gave it as their opinion that a return to the domi- 
nation of Great Britain was not now to be expected, and added their 
reasons, at large; on which Lord Howe put an end to the confer- 
ence; and this fruitless negotiation resulted as unprofitably as Mr. 
Adams had predicted it would, when he opposed the appointment 
of a committee. Throughout the remainder of the year 1776, and 
all 1777, Mr. Adams continued in the closest attention to the affairs 
of congress. His labours were incessant. He was a member of 
ninety different committees, a greater number than any other dele- 
gate, and twice as many as any but Samuel Adams and Richard 
Henry Lee. He was chairman of twenty-five committees. He was 
also chairman of the board of war and of the board of appeals; he 
was on the committees to give instructions to foreign ministers, to 
give instructions and commissions to military officers, to prepare 
various addresses, on the medical department, the post office, and 
others of the highest responsibility, and requiring the closest atten- 
tion. Certainly his duties must have been more multifarious and 
severe than those of any officer under any government in the world. 
From these overwhelming labours Mr. Adams was relieved in De- 
cember, 1777, by the appointment which he received and accepted, 
7 E 


of commissioner to France. This mission was founded on the 
anxiety generally felt to obtain open and efficient succours from the 
French government, in the war against its ancient, and perpetual 
enemy or rival, Great Britain. The physical weakness of the 
United States was felt by all ; the want of arms and equipments, 
but above all of money, was known to all those who had been con- 
cerned in public affairs ; and it had become greatly important to 
arrange an explicit understanding with the king of France; which 
the Marquis La Fayette and other chivalrous Frenchmen at that 
time serving in the American armies, represented to be altogether 
practicable. He was appointed to take the place of Silas Deane, 
who, with Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, had been appointed com- 
missioners in the preceding year. 

Mr. Adams felt the importance of this service, and reluctantly 
agreed to a long separation from his family and the perils of a win- 
ter voyage across an ocean covered with hostile cruisers, when cap- 
ture would most certainly subject him to close imprisonment in the 
tower of London. 

He embarked on board of the frigate Boston, in the month of 
February, 1778, from the shore of his native town, at the foot of 
Mount Wollaston, and had, in the course of the voyage, an oppor- 
tunity, for the first time, of participating in the personal peril of the 
contest, and of firing a gun at the enemy. Captain Tucker, the 
commander of the Boston, discovering an enemy's ship, could not. 
resist the temptation to give chase and engage her, although his 
immediate duty was to sail direct for France, and land his passen- 
ger. The consent of Mr. Adams was first asked, and willingly 
given to this deviation. The captain, however, stipulated that he 
should stay in the lower part of the ship, as a place of safety ; but, 
as soon as the fight commenced, he was found with a musket in his 
hand, and acting as a marine on the forecastle, having volunteered 
his service in that station. The captain not approving of this ex- 
posure of his life, told him, " I am commanded by the continental 
congress to carry you in safety to Europe, and I will do it," and 
accordingly picked him up in his arms, and with good-humoured 
force lifted him from the scene of danger. 

The efforts of Franklin and his colleagues in the commission had 
been fruitless, until the news reached France of the surrender of 
Burgoyne. This caused a change of policy on the part of the 
French government; so that when Mr. Adams reached Paris, he 
found that a treaty of amity and commerce as well as a treaty of 


alliance, had been signed in the month of February, and that 
there was but little business of a public nature for him to transact. 
Dr. Franklin too received soon after the appointment of minister 
plenipotentiary, to which his advanced age, great public services, 
and high standing with the French people, so well entitled him; 
and Mr. Adams believing that he would be more serviceable at 
home, asked and obtained permission to return there in the summer 
of 1779. 

His fellow citizens of Massachusetts immediately put his talents 
in requisition, to assist in forming the new state constitution, for 
which a convention was about to be elected. He accepted a, seat 
in this body, and was a member of the committee appointed to pre- 
pare a plan for their consideration ; his draught was accepted and 
reported, and he had again the satisfaction of seeing his principles 
of equal rights and republican institutions made the basis of a prac- 
tical government. 

During the time of his attention to the business of the Massa- 
chusetts convention, and before the labours of that assembly were 
terminated, congress came to the resolution that they would appoint 
a minister plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great 
Britain. Mr. Adams, at that period, stood on particularly elevated 
ground as a negotiator, and representative of the United States 
abroad. Having served in that capacity during the greater part of 
the year 1778, and some part of 1779, he had been excepted from 
the reproach cast upon all the other diplomatic agents, by a vote of 
congress, passed on the twentieth of April, declaring that " sus- 
picions and animosities had arisen among the late and present com- 
missioners, injurious to the interests of the United States," recalling 
Mr. Arthur Lee, Mr. Izard, Mr. William Lee, and Mr. Deane, leav- 
ing only Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, and not exempting even 
Franklin from a share of censure. 

He was, of course, in contemplation for this high and honourable 
employment ; but Mr. Jay, the president of congress, was put 
in nomination, and his elevated character and known abilities, as 
well as his actual presence and station as presiding officer of the 
house, obtained for him a number of votes equal to those given to 
Mr. Adams, who was absent. There being no choice made at the 
first ballot, the subject was postponed ; and, as a minister was to be 
sent to Spain, congress proceeded the next day to make a selection 
for that office, when Mr. Jay was almost unanimously elected, 
and immediately afterwards Mr. Adams received the appointment 


of " minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace and 
a treaty of commerce with Great Britain." 

It is somewhat remarkable, that the designation that ought to be 
given to Mr. Adams in his commission, was the topic of very grave 
and serious debate. The committee that prepared the draught 
entitled him " late commissioner of the United States at the court 
of Versailles, late delegate in congress from the state of Massachu- 
setts Bay, and chief justice of the said state." 

A motion was made, with very reasonable foundation it would 
seem, for striking out all this description of a man, whose name 
alone was quite sufficient designation ; but after much discussion, 
the whole addition was retained. 

The instructions under which the plenipotentiary was to act, were 
modified subsequently according to circumstances, but those with 
which he left his country were : 

1. To make it a preliminary article to any negotiation, that 
Great Britain should agree to treat with the United States as 
sovereign, free and independent. And to agree to no treaty with- 
out a recognition of such independence. 

2. To insist on certain boundaries, the same in all important par- 
ticulars as those agreed upon subsequently in the definitive treaty. 

3. The cession of Canada and Nova Scotia was not to be insisted 
on, nor their common right to the fisheries. 

4. A cessation of hostilities during the negotiation might be 
stipulated. And, 

5. In other matters he was to be governed by the principles of 
the alliance with France, the advice of our allies, his knowledge of 
our interests and his own discretion, in which was reposed " the 
fullest confidence." 

He was also instructed as to the treaty of commerce : 

1. To govern himself principally by the treaty of commerce al- 
ready existing with the French king, and to grant no privilege to 
Great Britain which that convention did not concede to France. 

2. To insist on the right to the fisheries. 

Under these explicit instructions Mr. Adams accepted the ap- 
pointment, and prepared for his departure. A liberal salary of 
twenty-five hundred pounds sterling was provided for him, and the 
French minister offered to detain the frigate La Sensible for his 
convenience, and to give him a passage in her to Europe. In that 
vessel he embarked accordingly, with Mr. Dana the secretary of 
legation, at Boston, in the month of October, 1779, and, after a 


long- voyage, was landed at Ferrol in Spain, and was obliged to 
make a very uncomfortable journey from that port to Paris. 

Mr. Adams quickly discovered that the British government were 
not, at this time, disposed to make peace; they were well aware of 
the financial embarrassments of America, and confidently expected 
to be able to bring back their colonies to dependence. He very 
soon began, therefore, to despair of being able to fulfil the objects 
of his mission, and thought the time far removed when a negotiation 
could be entered into with any hope of success. In the partial 
depression of spirits which this belief occasioned, he seems to have 
sighed for the moment of his return to a tranquil home. 

Mr. Adams had reached Paris in February, and communicated 
the objects of his mission to Dr. Franklin, the sole envoy of the 
United States at the court of France, and to the Count de Vergennes, 
the French prime minister. This minister, who appears to have 
intended the employment of some degree of diplomatic artifice to- 
wards the Americans, was very pressing to be fully informed of his 
instructions, but they were not communicated to him. He advised 
also, or requested, that the commission to make a treaty of com- 
merce should be kept secret. 

Though Mr. Adams studiously avoided any interference with 
affairs that did not relate to the ends of his mission, except when 
his opinion was expressly called for by the Count de Vergennes, 
yet he found opportunities of being useful, and received a vote of 
thanks from congress in the latter part of this year, "for his indus- 
trious attention to the interest and honour of these United States 
abroad." The immediate occasion of his appointment had been an 
informal communication from a member of the British government 
to Dr. Franklin, importing that the ministry were disposed to put 
an end to the war. But, during the year 1780, the cause of peace 
made no progress in the parliament ; and the French government, 
after the appointment of Mr. Adams, declared that the situation of 
the affairs of the alliance in Europe, announced the necessity of an- 
other campaign as indispensable, to bring England to an acknow- 
ledgment of the independence of the United States. 

Mr. Adams hearing of the misfortune that had befallen Mr. Lau- 
rens, who had been taken prisoner while on his passage to Holland, 
where he was to have negotiated a loan for the United States, and 
not being limited by his instructions to a residence in any particular 
country, determined to repair immediately to Holland, and see if 
something could not be done there, to render his country less de- 


pendent on France, both for political consideration and for loans 
of money. He accordingly applied for his passports, without which 
he could not travel in France ; but the French minister did not 
wish any success to the object of this change of residence, and under 
various pretexts detained him in Paris until midsummer. 

In June of the same year, congress being informed of the capti- 
vity of Mr. Laurens, appointed Mr. Adams in his stead to negotiate 
for a loan in Holland. He received this commission accordingly in 
August, and by it an abundance of untried business was devolved 
upon him, of a nature exceedingly embarrassing and difficult, 
among capitalists, brokers, and usurers, many of whom could speak 
as little of the French or English languages as he could of Dutch. 

Very soon afterwards he received the new appointment of com- 
missioner to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the 
States General of Holland ; and at the same time congress sent to 
him their resolutions, adopting the principles of the " armed neu- 
trality" proposed by the Russian government, and acceded to by 
other powers; with instructions to agree, in any treaty that he might 
conclude, to regulations on the subject of neutral rights, such as 
might be established at a congress of the European states, then in 
contemplation. This resolution he communicated to the Russian, 
Swedish and Danish envoys in Holland, and received civil answers 
from each of them; but the policy of their courts was not rendered 
more favourable to American rights by this attempt to conciliate 

He subsequently received letters of credence from congress, as 
their minister plenipotentiary to their "high mightinesses," and also 
to his serene highness the prince of Orange, as stadtholder of the 
United Provinces. By this accumulation of trusts, he was minister- 
plenipotentiary for making peace ; minister plenipotentiary for ma 
king a treaty of commerce with Great Britain ; minister plenipoten- 
tiary to their high mightinesses the States General; minister 
plenipotentiary to his serene highness the prince of Orange and 
stadtholder; minister plenipotentiary for pledging the faith of the 
United States to the armed neutrality; and what perhaps at that 
critical moment was of as much importance to the United States as 
any of those powers, he was commissioner for negotiating a loan 
of money to the amount of ten millions of dollars, upon which de- 
pended the support of our army at home and of our ambassadors 

He had no instructions to make any proposition of peace ; the 


offer was to come from the British government. But he thought, 
at one time, of making known his powers, in order that the people 
of England might see that the continuance of the war, which had 
become the subject of loud complaint among them, was not owing 
to the fault of the Americans. The Count de Vergennes, however, 
disapproved of this course, as indeed he did of every thing that 
could possibly lead to a pacification not under his immediate in- 
fluence and control. 

The question was referred to congress, and they adopted the views 
of the French minister, and informed Mr. Adams accordingly, that 
they " had no expectations from the influence which the people of 
England may have on the British council, whatever may be the dis- 
positions of that nation or their magistrates towards these United 
States; nor are they of opinion that a change of ministers would 
produce a change of measures ;" they therefore hoped that he would 
"be very cautious of admitting his measures to be influenced by 
presumptions of such events, or their probable consequences." 

While indefatigably occupied in efforts to discharge all his multi- 
farious duties, he was suddenly summoned to Versailles to consult 
with the Count de Vergennes relative to peace. The call was em- 
barrassing, because he knew that he was doing good service in 
Holland. But as the opportunities to make peace, were not on any 
account to be neglected, he lost no time in repairing to the French 

He found that his presence there had been thought requisite, be- 
cause the courts of Vienna and St. Petersburg, which had previously 
offered their mediation, had now communicated the project of a 
general peace ; in which, however, the rights of the United States 
were but inadequately recognised. 

This was an anxious period in the life of Mr. Adams. He knew 
that an earnest desire for peace prevailed among his countrymen ; 
but he was not willing to compromit their rights by agreeing to 
terms that ought not to be imposed on them. It had been the con- 
stant effort of de Vergennes to make him act as a subordinate agent 
in this important matter, and govern himself by the wishes of the 
French cabinet. He on the contrary considered himself a plenipo- 
tentiary, and subject to no directions but those of congress. This 
opposition of views between him and the government of France, 
occasioned an effort on the part of the Count de Vergennes to obtain 
from congress a modification of his powers and instructions, so as 
to place him completely under the directions of that minister. 


The chief motive for this design seems to have been an appre- 
hension that Mr. Adams would refuse to relinquish the fisheries, 
and, on some other points, would insist on terms which the policy 
of France did not seek to secure to the Americans. The independ- 
ence of America, indeed, France had bound herself to insist upon, 
and she was faithful to her contract, but further than that point the 
ministers of the king did not intend to go. It was not desirable, 
therefore, for France, that the powers of Mr. Adams respecting a 
treaty of commerce should be known to the British parliament, be- 
cause it was intended that France should, at the time of a general 
pacification, have a voice in regulating the trade between the late 
belligerents, and receive a large share of whatever commercial ad- 
vantage the new republic should have it in her power to grant. 

Mr. Adams had been difficult to manage, and showed a disposi- 
tion to transact his own business without waiting for the permission 
or dictation of the Count ; in consequence of which, the French 
minister at Philadelphia was instructed early in 1781, to make a 
complaint of his refractoriness to the congress, and to demand that 
he should be placed under the immediate control of the French 
government. Accordingly,in May of that year, the congress were 
told by the Chevalier de la Luzerne, that "the empress of Russia 
having invited the king and the court of London to take her for me- 
diatrix, the latter court considered this as a formal offer of media- 
tion, and accepted it. It appeared at the same time to desire the 
emperor to take part therein; and this monarch has in fact proposed 
his co-mediation to the belligerent powers in Europe. The king 
wished to have the consent of his allies, the American States, but 
might possibly accept the mediation before their answer could be 
received by him, and that it was of great importance that this as- 
sembly should give their plenipotentiary instructions proper to 
announce their disposition to peace, and their moderation, and to 
convince the powers of Europe that the independence of the thirteen 
United States, and the engagements they have contracted with the 
king, are the sole motives which determine them to continue the 
war ; and that whenever they shall have full and satisfactory assu- 
rances on these two capital points, they will be ready to conclude a 

Congress were also told by the same minister, that "if they put 
any confidence in the king's friendship and benevolence; if they 
were persuaded of his inviolable attachment to the principle of the 
alliance and of his firm resolution constantly to support the cause 


of the United States, they would be impressed with the necessity of 
prescribing to their plenipotentiary a perfect and open confidence in 
the French ministers, and a thorough reliance on the king; and 
would direct him to take no step without the approbation of his 
majesty; and after giving him, in his instructions, the principal and 
most important outlines for his conduct, they would order him, with 
respect to the manner of carrying them into execution, to receive 
his directions from the Count de Vergennes, or from the person who 
might be charged with the negotiation in the name of the king." 

Congress were further informed, that it was necessary that the 
king should know the intentions of the United States with regard to 
the proposed mediation ; and that his majesty should be authorized 
by congress to give notice of their dispositions to all the powers who 
would take part in the negotiation for a pacification. The minister 
delivered his own opinion, that he saw no inconvenience arising 
from the congress imitating the example of the king, by showing 
themselves disposed to accept peace from the hands of the emperor 
of Germany and the empress of Russia. He added, that congress 
should rely on the justice and wisdom of those two sovereigns; and 
at the same time, he renewed the assurance that his majesty would 
defend the cause of the United States as zealously as the interest 
of his own crown. 

This communication made a strong impression on congress, and 
a proposition was made to concur in the whole of the suggestions 
of the French envoy; but this was resisted, and after considerable 
debate and difficulty the instructions to Mr. Adams were modified 
so as only to direct the acceptance of the mediation offered by the 
empress and emperor, insisting however on independence and the 
maintenance of the treaties with France; to give a little more lati- 
tude of discretion and prudence as to other points; to require the 
most candid and confidential communications with the ministers of 
the king of France ; and to " undertake nothing in the negotiation 
for peace or truce without their knowledge and concurrence." An 
additional article of instructions was also agreed to, in which he was 
authorized to accede to the proposal of a truce, provided Great 
Britain should not retain possession of any part of the territory of 
the United States. 

The obligation to undertake nothing in the negotiation without 
the knowledge and concurrence of the Count de Vergennes, merely 
imposed the inconvenience of consulting with a disagreeable col- 
league ; but was very different from the orders which the French 


envoy had demanded should be sent to Mr. Adams, " to receive his 
instructions from" the French minister. Still it could not but be 
seen by Mr. Adams, that the influence of the French government 
almost amounted to dictation, and that eagerness for peace had too 
much increased. 

It is remarkable that notwithstanding these complaints against 
him as a negotiator, from so prevailing an authority, the congress 
voted, when they sent the new instructions, that it was not expedient 
to join any other person with Mr. Adams in negotiating the treaty. 
Such was the actual state of the business when he left Amsterdam 
and came to Versailles to meet a proposal of the imperial media- 
tors. The most objectionable feature of this proposition was that 
it stipulated an armistice without requiring the evacuation of the 
American territory by the hostile army. Against this stipulation 
Mr. Adams was resolute. He did not otherwise object to the me- 
diation ; but nothing further was at that time done in the matter. 
He wrote several letters to the Count de Vergennes explaining his 
views; but though that minister had through his envoy in America 
obtained a direction to Mr. Adams to communicate freely and con- 
fidentially with him, he took care to be especially reserved and in- 
communicative towards Mr. Adams. 

The view which he took of this situation of affairs appears to have 
been not very encouraging ; he had little or no expectation of ob- 
taining peace by means of diplomacy, and estimated the influence 
of the pen in such a contest much less than that of the sword. 

It is certain that the United States were, at this period, in as much 
danger from the insincere friendship of the Count de Vergennes, as 
from the open hostility of Lord Cornwallis. The French govern- 
ment assumed a very patronising and dictatorial tone towards the 
congress, and was gradually appropriating to itself a power over 
the concerns of America, almost as exceptionable as that which the 
British ministry had vainly endeavoured to establish. It was not 
the intention of the French minister to allow the United States to 
possess the fisheries without admitting France to a share in the ad- 
vantage ; nor did he mean to suffer the boundary line in the west to 
be placed where the Americans expected. The interests of Spain 
were preferred, in his plans of pacification, before those of America ; 
and except a bare independence, nothing was to be secured to us. 

In the extremely diplomatic compliments of congratulation and 
condolence addressed by the republican congress to the monarch of 
France, on the occasion of the birth of a child and the death of an 


aunt, a slight indication of this new pupilage may be perceived ; 
but when the representatives of a free and independent nation were 
required to instruct their plenipotentiary to " take no step without 
the approbation of his majesty," and to "receive his directions" 
from the king's minister, it was time to recall the recollection of the 
principles that led into the war, and to repel so arrogant a preten- 
sion of superiority, with the same manly scorn that before had re- 
jected the claim of parliamentary supremacy. 

Mr. Adams, after signifying to the Count de Vergennes his wil- 
lingness to do any thing for the sake of peace, that might be com- 
patible with the honour and interests of his country, and having 
satisfied himself that the British ministry had no real design of 
making peace on terms that could be acceptable to America, deter- 
mined no longer to be detained from the important objects of his 
mission to Holland. After a few weeks only, passed at Versailles 
and Paris, therefore, he returned to Amsterdam. 

In the mean time congress again became more alarmed, and re- 
considering their resolution as to the number of commissioners, they 
joined Dr. Franklin, then plenipotentiary at Paris, Mr. Jay, the 
minister at Madrid, Mr. Henry Laurens, who had recently been 
appointed special minister to France, and Mr. Jefferson, in the 
commission with Mr. Adams; and added to the instructions given to 
the whole of them jointly, "that they should govern themselves by 
the advice and opinion of the ministers of the king of France." 
This was an extraordinary and unjustifiable submission to the 
views of the French government. It was not originally any part 
of the instructions recently prepared for Mr. Adams alone, but had 
been inserted at the special instance of the French envoy at Phila- 
delphia, who was, in a strange spirit of subserviency, consulted on 
the subject. The same unaccountable and disgraceful concession 
was now incorporated in the new commission — a concession that 
made, in effect, the Count de Vergennes sole plenipotentiary for the 
United States, and left their independence and interests entirely at 
his control. 

Mr. Adams was at Amsterdam when the new commission arrived, 
and being actively engaged there in persuading the cautious Hol- 
landers to lend money to the United States, and convinced that until 
a change of ministry should take place in England, it would be use- 
less to expect a peace, he did not quarrel with instructions which 
he felt too derogatory to his own character, and the honour of his 
country, to obey. 


Few men in so trying a situation would have evinced so salutary 
a firmness as Mr. Adams had shown, in rejecting the proposal of an 
armistice, and maintaining his own independence of the French 
minister. His resolution could gain no support or encouragement 
from the people with whom he was obliged to associate ; he had to 
withstand the allurements of imperial condescension and royal 
friendship; the experience of practised diplomatists and the opinions 
of able statesmen were all brought to bear on him, and worst of all, 
congress did not sustain him. But knowing the selfish policy of 
France, and feeling the same confidence in the final triumph of his 
country that had actuated him through the whole contest, he re- 
mained immovably fixed in a determination to obtain not a tempo- 
rary, precarious, or degraded independence, but the fisheries and the 
boundaries, and every stipulation that was necessary to make inde- 
pendence secure and honourable. To this firmness the eventual 
success of this negotiation may be ascribed, and the glorious result 
exceeding the hopes of congress, by which the Mississippi was made 
the boundary line, the fisheries secured, and the nation saved from 
the obligation to indemnify the tories for opposing the freedom of 
their country. 

But before the termination of this part of his duties Mr. Adams 
had a heavy task to perform in Holland. Notwithstanding that 
country was under a republican government, and ought on that ac- 
count to have felt a sympathy for America, and although at wai 
with England, the States General were not anxious to recognise 
the independence of the United States. For a treaty of amity and 
commerce Mr. Adams was only to wait without soliciting it, hut his 
principal business was to obtain money, by means of which the war 
was to be prosecuted ; and the most effectual negotiation for peace, 
he well knew, was to be looked for in the defeat of the British armies 
in the United States. 

Money was the crying want of America ; she had all the other 
resources of war, but her finances were in a deplorable condition. 
Holland was rich, but cautious, and made nice calculations of the 
probability of such success on the part of the Americans as would 
enable them to repay a loan. Mr. Adams saw that the disposition 
of the Dutch capitalists was kind, but their judgment had yet to be 
enlightened. His business, therefore, was to develope the resources 
and capacities of the United States, the nature of the soil and its 
productions, the hardihood, enterprise and industry of the people, 
their frugal habits, purity of manners, and rapid increase. All these 


points were to be made clear before tbe money cbcsts could be opened. 
That the United States were poor was not a decisive objection, for 
the Hollanders had learned that a nation could pay its debts if the 
people had industrious habits, ready ways of business, and liberty 
to pursue them without interruption. 

Mr. Adams spared no pains to give them information ; and he 
finally convinced them, and succeeded in his object. This was a 
new modification of diplomacy ; to leave a country almost unknown 
to the great mass of Europeans as to its character and resources, 
but known to be in a state of revolutionary war, and under such 
circumstances to ask for money, the most difficult of all matters of 
negotiation, and to obtain it by the force of intelligence and truth, 
was an exploit reserved for him alone. 

A series of papers published by him, under the form of letters to 
an inquiring friend, Mr. Kalkoen, argued these points ably and fully ; 
with a history of the rise and progress of the war, and the prospect 
of its successful issue. These papers were translated, and were 
read with great avidity all over Holland ; and at length, backed by 
the powerful corroboration which came to their aid in the intelli- 
gence of the surrender of Cornwallis, produced the desired effect. 

In September, 1782, a loan was effected for eight millions of 
guilders, at five and four per cent., a rate of interest not extrava- 
gantly high, considering the situation of the United States, and the 
doubts whether the confederacy could keep the states together after 
the pressure of war should be entirely removed. This too was fol- 
lowed in the next month by the conclusion of a treaty of amity and 
commerce, placing trade on the footing of the most favoured nation, 
and of course recognising the United States as free, sovereign and 

In the spring of 1782, an informal overture for peace had come 
from England, but it proved abortive; and in the summer of that 
year Mr. Adams considered the war as by no means near its ter- 

It is impossible to know how much the disposition towards peace, 
which made slow progress among the British statesmen previously, 
was quickened by the knowledge of the loan effected by Mr. Adams 
from the Dutch. It is certain, that immediatelyafter this occurrence 
the first real and effectual steps were taken by the English govern- 
ment for putting an end to the war, by the unconditional acknow- 
ledgment of our independence. This policy being adopted by Lord 
Shelburne's administration, and announced to the American coin- 


missioners, the only questions that remained related to the fisheries, 
and other advantages that France did not desire to secure for her 
transatlantic allies. 

Mr. Adams hastened to Paris, for the purpose of assisting in the 
arrangement of the articles of peace. A difficulty now existed arising 
out of the apparent obligations to act in concert with " our great 
and generous ally," the king of France, and out of the express in- 
structions of congress to the commissioners, to govern themselves 
in this matter by the directions of the king's ministers. 

It was well known, or strongly suspected by the commissioners, 
that the " great and generous ally" of the United States intended 
to cut them off from the fisheries, to insist on an arrangement of 
the boundary line which would surrender a part of the American 
territory to Spain, and to favour the claim of England for an in- 
demnity to the loyalists. " The Count de Vcrgennes," Mr. Adams 
afterwards said, "was an accomplished gentleman and scholar, and 
a statesman of great experience in various diplomatic and other 
ministerial stations. In treating with other nations, he considered 
the interests of his own country, and left others to take care of 
theirs. His refinements were not invisible." 

This opinion Mr. Adams had entertained from the first, and the 
other commissioners now joined with him in a determination to 
secure for their country much better terms than the French minis- 
ter was willing they should obtain, and to disregard the inconside- 
rate orders of congress, which would have placed them in a state 
of subserviency to France. They accordingly met the British com- 
missioner, and signed the provisional treaty, on the thirtieth of No- 
vember, 1782. By so doing, they secured an honourable and advan- 
tageous peace, without any violation of the engagements imposed 
by the alliance with the French king, and without deserting their 
ally; for it was a condition of the arrangement, that no definitive 
treaty should be signed, unless peace were at the same time made 
with France. 

The French minister finding himself baffled in his scheme of 
finesse, addressed sharp reproaches to the American commissioners 
for having taken this step without his interference. To an accusa- 
tion such as this, of having aimed solely at securing the honour and 
interests of their country, none of the commissioners, except Dr. 
Franklin, condescended to make any reply. France had never 
avowed her designs ; all that she had openly stipulated for, had been 
punctually observed ; her wishes had been discovered only by her 


advice to consent to less favourable terms, or betrayed by the insin- 
cerity of M. de Vergennes. The provisional articles were signed 
by Messrs. Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Laurens; and the definitive 
treaty which followed, was signed on the third of September follow- 
ing, by the same commissioners, except Mr. Laurens. 

There was a deviation from the instructions of congress in making 
these treaties, in respect to the provision for restoring confiscated 
estates to the loyalists. This condition the British commissioner, 
insisted upon as necessary to the honour of his government, assert- 
ing that those persons in the colonies who had faithfully adhered to 
the royal cause, could not be abandoned; on the other hand, Mr. 
Adams and his colleagues were instructed, and refused to stipulate 
any thing in their favour. This question delayed the treaty, but 
finally the British commissioner gave way, on being allowed to in- 
sert an article which was not authorized by the instructions from 
congress, providing that congress should recommend to the legisla- 
tures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of such 
confiscated property. This condition was manifestly nugatory, and 
otherwise the treaty was all that had been at any time hoped for. 
It was an extremely favourable and honourable arrangement, and 
was negotiated with acknowledged ability on the part of the Ame- 
ricans, but in England was extremely unpopular. 

Mr. Adams remained, during part of the year 1784, in Holland, 
and returned to France on being placed in that year, by congress, 
at the head of a commission, in which Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jeffer- 
son were joined, with powers to negotiate commercial treaties with 
any foreign nations that might be disposed to meet them for the 
purpose. It was resolved, at the same time, that it would be advan- 
tageous to conclude such treaties with Russia, the court of Vienna, 
Prussia, Denmark, Saxony, Hamburg, Great Britain, Spain, Por- 
tugal, Genoa, Tuscany, Rome, Naples, Venice, Sardinia, the Otto- 
man Porte, and Morocco. He resided at Auteuil, near Paris, in 
order to be at hand for the purpose of executing his multifarious 
commission; but the outline of this extensive plan of commercial 
conventions was never filled up. 

In January, 1785, congress resolved to appoint a minister pleni- 
potentiary to represent the United States at the court of Great 
Britain, and a few weeks afterwards Mr. Adams was chosen for 
this important, and, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, 
delicate office. The appearance at that court, of an accredited 
minister of the late colonies — now, by the reluctant and enforced 


consent of Great Britain, an independent nation — was an event 
calculated to attract the particular attention of all Europe. The 
temper in which he might be received was a doubtful anticipation, 
involving not only considerations, but national concerns. The 
embarrassment of this business was felt on both sides ; Mr. Jay, 
then the secretary of foreign affairs, prepared a letter of credence, 
which congress prudentially ordered to be altered so as to have 
•"no reference to former disputes." And when Mr. Adams went 
over to England, Mr. Jay wrote to him : " The manner of your 
reception at that court, and its temper, views and dispositions re- 
specting American objects, are matters concerning which particular 
information might be no less useful than interesting. Your letter 
will, I am persuaded, remove all suspense on those points." 

Mr. Adams being thus enjoined to report particularly the circum- 
stances of his public reception, gave a full and particular account 
of all the ceremonies of his reception, from which we make the 
following extract. 

" The king then asked me, whether I came last from France ? 
and upon my answering in the affirmative, he put on an air of 
familiarity, and smiling, or rather laughing, said, ' there is an opi- 
nion among some people that you are not the most attached of all 
your countrymen to the manners of France.' I was surprised at 
this, because I thought it an indiscretion, and a descent from his 
dignity. I was a little embarrassed, but determined not to deny the 
truth on one hand, nor leave him to infer from it any attachment to 
England on the other, I threw off as much gravity as I could, and 
assumed an air of gaiety, and a tone of decision, as far as it was 
decent, and said, — 'that opinion, sir, is not mistaken; I must avow 
to your majesty I have no attachment but to my own country.' 
The king replied, as quick as lightning, ' an honest man will never 
have any other.' " 

Notwithstanding the courtesy of his reception, Mr. Adams found 
the temper of the government of England extremely sour, and un- 
friendly towards the United States. It seemed as if the ministry 
were determined to make the peace only a truce, and hardly con- 
sidered the war as finally closed. The posts on the frontier were 
retained so manifestly against the faith of the treaty, that congress 
thought it prudent not to insist on a categorical answer to the re- 
monstrances which Mr. Adams had made upon the subject; and 
a commercial treaty the British government would not consent, by 
any means, to form. 


Mr. Adams, however, could not be idle, and besides joining in 
the arrangement of treaties with the emperor of Morocco and the 
king' of Prussia, he occupied himself in the intervals of his diplo- 
matic intercourse with the government of England, in writing an 
elaborate and eloquent defence of the forms of government estab 
lished in America. 

Mr. Turgot, the Abbe de Mably and Dr. Price, with other 
European writers, had advanced unfavourable opinions of the sys- 
tems of government formed by the several states of the union ; and 
Dr. Franklin had been cited as having disapproved some features 
in several of them. To counteract the effect of these strictures, 
and keep the American people enlightened on the subject of re- 
publican institutions, the Defence of the American Constitutions 
was attempted. 

Immediately after the publication of his Defence of the Constitu- 
tions, he asked permission to relinquish his office, and return ; and 
in the year 1788, he had the happiness, after an absence of between 
eight and nine years, to find himself again at home. 

At this period the new constitution was to be carried into effect, 
and two persons were to be voted for, of whom the one having the 
highest number should be president, and the other should be the 
vice-president. Washington had been mainly instrumental in ori- 
ginating the plan of the convention, and in causing the constitution 
to be ratified ; he was, besides, pre-eminent in favour and renown. 
To be thought worthiest of being joined with him in this vote, and 
being placed in the highest station except that which he consented 
to fill, was an honour reserved to Mr. Adams. In the autumn of 
1788, he was elected vice-president, and on the fourth of the next 
March, he took his seat as president of the new senate, at New 
York, where the first congress was convened. 

In this station he presided with acknowledged dignity, was con- 
sulted by Washington on all occasions of difficulty, and passed 
through his whole term in that office in uninterrupted harmony with 
the president, and without the smallest misunderstanding with any 
member of the senate. An example of the confidence reposed in 
his opinions respecting public affairs, is to be seen in the corres- 
pondence that occurred in 1790, between Washington and himself, 
on the subject of a probable attack by the English upon the Spanish 
possessions near the Mississippi, and the measures that the United 
States ought to adopt, in case the British forces should be marched 
from Canada through a part of the North Western territory. 
9 f2 


The advice of Mr. Adams was marked by a just regard to the 
national honour and dignity, and a preference of peace, if war 
could be avoided without compromising either ; but he recommended 
that no violation of our territory should be on any account permitted. 

He was re-elected as vice-president with entire unanimity in 
1792, and the period during which he held this office was the most 
tranquil and, perhaps, except the few last years of his life, the hap- 
piest that he ever knew. 

In 1796, General Washington took leave of public life, and the 
nation was obliged to look for a successor. Mr. Adams was of 
course in view for this promotion, and was elected, though not 
without opposition and a close contest. The French revolution had 
engrossed the attention of the world. In this country republican 
sympathies were awakened, the errors of the reformers were over- 
looked, and the sanguinary excesses which disgraced France were 
forgiven by a large portion of our citizens. Two parties became 
formed in the United States, each disclaiming for a time the name 
of party, but indulging hostile feelings towards each other. Fo 
reigners wielding a portion of the power of the press for their own 
selfish purposes fomented these unhappy discords. Mr. Jefferson 
was the candidate of the party that opposed Mr. Adams, but 
between them, personally, there was no unkindness, as politically 
there was really but little difference. Of the electoral votes Mr. 
Adams received seventy-one and Mr. Jefferson sixty-eight, and in 
March 1797, they entered upon their offices as president and vice- 
president of the United States. 

During the excitement of the contest, Mr. Adams had been 
charged with a preference for monarchical institutions, and this 
absurd accusation growing out of his defence of the frame of 
government which provided for a single executive and two houses 
of the legislature, in opposition to the argument in favour of the 
system, which had been tried in Pennsylvania, comprising a plural 
executive and single house of legislators, was repeated with great 
perseverance, along with a thousand electioneering calumnies. The 
licentiousness of the press on such occasions is now well understood, 
but this was the first occasion of its prostitution in America to such 
purposes. Mr. Jefferson, therefore, thought it was necessary for 
him to disown most pointedly and publicly any share in this attack 
on the character of his competitor ; and when he first met the 
senate as their president, he took occasion to tell that respectable 
body of men, that the duties of the chief magistracy had been 


"justly confided to the eminent character who preceded him ; whose 
talents and integrity," he added, have been known and revered by 
me through a long course of years ; have been the foundation of a 
cordial and uninterrupted friendship between us; and I devoutly 
pray that he may be long preserved for the government, the hap- 
piness and prosperity of our country." Besides this compliment, 
Mr. Adams received from the senate over which he had presided 
for eight years, an address taking leave of him with the strongest 
expressions of respect and affection. 

In his inaugural address the new president also look the op- 
portunity of declaring his attachment to the constitution, without 
desiring any change. It was not, he said, when he first saw the 
constitution, nor had it been since, any objection to it in his mind, 
that the executive and senate were not more permanent. Nor had 
lie entertained a thought of promoting any alteration in it, but such 
as the people themselves, in the course of their experience, should 
see and feel to be necessary or expedient, and by their representa- 
tives in congress and the state legislatures, according to the consti- 
tution itself, adopt and ordain. 

On the same occasion he gave a summary of the principles by 
which he should govern himself in the performance of his functions 
as president ; and it is believed that he did not in any instance 
depart from them. He added a just tribute to the virtues and 
wisdom of his great predecessor, and an intimation of a doubt of 
his own abilities to follow so exalted a model. 

The administration of Mr. Adams should be left to the historian, 
within whoso province, rather than that of biography, it is properly 
confined. A very slight notice of some of the prominent circum- 
stances will be permitted, however, to this imperfect sketch of his 
eventful life. 

His public measures as president have been often compared with 
those of his predecessor and his successor ; and because he was not 
re-elected as they were, the comparison has been supposed to show 
his fitness for that high office to a disadvantage. But the circum- 
stances were widely different ; he fell on evil days, and it is not 
conceivable that any possible course of conduct, on his part, could 
have prevented the overthrow of the party with which his name was 
connected. Without disparaging the character of Mr. Jefferson, 
it is nevertheless true, that his defects were concealed in the glare 
of his success, while the virtues of Mr. Adams were obscured in the 
gloom of his fall, or rather in the fall of the Federal party. 


Notwithstanding the extraordinary popularity of Washington, 
scarcely any important act of his administration had escaped the 
most bitter invective. Mr. Adams, of course, was not exempted 
from the same hostility. He found a cabinet composed of able men, 
but not of his choosing, therefore not bound to him by any tie of 
gratitude, and not personally attached to him. He continued them in 
their offices from the best motives, but the policy was unfortunate. 
He found, too, the government embroiled in a dispute with France, 
and one of his earliest communications to congress had to comprise 
the information of an outrageous insult offered to the minister of 
the United States by the government of that country. The speech 
of the president on this occasion was dignified and eloquent ; it was 
calculated to rouse those indignant feelings which a high-spirited 
people, insulted and injured by a foreign power, can never fail to 
display, if their sensibility to external wrongs is not blunted by in- 
vincible prejudice. On the manifestation of such feelings he relied 
for the success of any further negotiation, and on their real exist- 
ence he depended for the defence of the national honour, if further 
negotiation should be fruitless. 

An enthusiastic admiration of France, however, prevailed among 
a very large portion of the American people ; an admiration which 
all are now willing to allow was excessive, though generous. By 
this part of the community it was insisted that the provocation had 
been given by the preceding administration, and that the United 
States owed the first apology. After the hearty approbation of 
Washington's public conduct, manifested at the time by a large 
majority of the people, it would have been impossible to undo what 
he had done. To yield to the wishes of this party was therefore 
out of the question. Mr. Adams was compelled by the force of 
circumstances, as well as by the dictates of his own judgment, to 
persist in a manly and dignified deportment towards the French 
rulers, who had been endeavouring to excite among the American 
people a dissatisfaction with their chosen legislators and magistrates. 

He was encouraged by addresses from all quarters, and among 
the rest by the approving voice of Washington. He did not abandon 
hope, however, of a pacification. Congress and the people, except- 
ing the party opposed to him, went much further than he did in 
their view of the extent to which the national honour required the 
United States to go towards actual war. He offended many of the 
zealous federalists by appointing a new commission, consisting of 
three envoys, to France, in consequence of an informal intimation 


from the French government that they would give a respectful 
reception to such an embassy. 

The gentlemen selected for this mission, Messrs. Pinckney, Mar- 
shall and Gerry, were treated with insult by the French Directory. 
History hardly furnishes an example of such open contumely suffered 
by one nation from another, as the United States now received, in 
the persons of their ministers, from France. Yet it is certain that 
the popularity of Mr. Adams was affected by the measures, mode- 
rate as they were, that he recommended for upholding the national 

He was unfortunate, if not being re-elected was a misfortune, 
in other particulars than the prevailing sympathy for republican 
France. In his enlarged views of policy, a naval establishment was 
considered necessary to protect our commerce and defend our ter- 
ritory. The nation has since done justice to his wisdom, in this 
particular, by adopting the same policy ; but during his administra- 
tion, and for some years afterwards, the navy was not regarded 
with general good will. The intemperate abusiveness of the press 
was looked upon, at that time, with a degree of uneasiness that has 
disappeared since the true corrective has been better understood ; 
and laws were made to restrain the publication of falsehoods calcu- 
lated to injure the government. Other measures were adopted, with 
a view to strengthen the executive power in a season of national 
peril and difficulty. The people had not been accustomed to see 
such restraints imposed even upon the seditious ; and imputed in- 
discriminately to the president the blame which belonged to the 
leaders of a party in congress. 

He proceeded, meanwhile, in the honest discharge of his duties, 
without courting popularity by any sacrifices. He dismissed the 
secretary of state, when he thought the national interests required 
a change, without fearing the effect of a division among his friends. 
His manners and address were as unbending as his public prin- 
ciples ; he was neither possessed of the grand and imposing pre- 
sence of Washington, nor the fascinating vivacity of conversation 
that distinguished Mr. Jefferson. His figure was low and ungrace- 
ful, his address often abrupt and repulsive ; nor did he always 
know how to conceal his sentiments when concealment would have 
been prudent. Of this failing he was himself well aware, and once 
when in the room of Stuart the painter, he looked at the portraits 
of Washington and himself standing side by side, and observed the 
lightly closed mouth in the picture of Washington, and the severed 


lips in his own, "Ah," said he with a smile, "that fellow," pointing 
to his own likeness, "never could keep his mouth shut." 

Of the particulars in public policy to which he lent his influence 
or concurrence, some have been since adopted as the permanent 
politics of the nation; the wisdom of others is still a subject of dispute 
among men of sense and patriotism : but the perfect purity of his 
intentions has been admitted even by Mr. Jefferson, when he was 
the active leader, as well as the candidate of the opposing party. 
During the heat of the political contests which resulted in the 
elevation of that distinguished person to the presidency, he re- 
buked the violence of some young politicians, who were imputing 
to Mr. Adams designs injurious to the republican institutions of 
his country. " Gentlemen," said Mr. Jefferson, " you do not know 
that man ; there is not upon this earth a more perfectly honest man 
than John Adams. Concealment is no part of his character ; of 
that he is utterly incapable. It is not in his nature to meditate any 
thing that he would not publish to the world. The measures of the 
general government are a fair subject for difference of opinion, but 
do not found your opinions on the notion that there is the smallest 
spice of dishonesty, moral or political, in the character of John 
Adams ; for I know him well, and I repeat that a man more per- 
fectly honest never issued from the hands of his Creator." 

With integrity thus vouched for and not disputed, talents of a 
high order, great experience in public affairs, and unbounded pa- 
triotism, he was a candidate for re-election, and was not re-elected. 
It is probable that nothing in his power to do, nor his possessing a 
hundred-fold the talents, experience and virtue, if that were possible, 
could have prevented the defeat of the party with which he was un- 
fortunately connected, and whose rashness in the use of power soon 
consigned them, as a party, to a final overthrow, and caused some 
of the wisest maxims in national policy to be for a time discarded. 

After completing his presidential term of four years, he retired 
in March, 1801, to his quiet .home at Quincy, where he lived in 
happy retirement, an attentive spectator of public events, but not 
pining with any desires to mingle in them again. If the loss of his 
election brought with it some degree of mortification to his pride, 
the buoyancy of his spirits and strength of his understanding soon 
restored his cheerfulness and complacency ; and although sometimes 
provoked by the repetition of ill-natured remarks formerly made 
upon his conduct, he seldom showed any embittered feelings to- 
wards those who had opposed or deserted him. 


Letters were written to him under the seeming o&the most devoted 
friendship, insidiously to draw from him some obloquy against his 
successful competitor ; but although the contest had been violent, 
and great latitude of invective had been indulged on each side, yet 
in his answers, confided to the "honour" and "discretion" of his 
correspondent, and afterwards published in despite of honour and 
discretion, he spoke more kindly of his late rival than was usual 
with any of the leaders of the defeated party. 

He was offered a nomination as governor of Massachusetts, but 
he wished only for retirement. Zealous as ever for the honour of 
his country, he supported the policy of Mr. Jefferson's administra- 
tion in the disputes with England, and not only in conversation, but 
in letters that were published and extensively read, contended ably 
and earnestly for the maintenance of our rights. When these dis- 
putes afterwards eventuated in war, he avowed his approbation of 
that measure, notwithstanding the prevailing sentiment against it 
in his own state and immediate neighbourhood. Writing to a friend 
on this subject, in July, 1812, he thus expressed himself: 

"I think with you, that it is the duty of every considerate man 
to support the national authorities, in whose hands soever they may 
be : though I will not say whatever their measures may be. 

" To your allusion to the war, I have nothing to say, but that it 
is with surprise that I hear it pronounced, not only by newspapers, 
but by persons in authority, ecclesiastical and civil, and political and 
military, that it is an unjust and unnecessary war; that the decla- 
ration of it was altogether unexpected, &c. How it is possible that 
a rational, a social, or a moral creature can say that the war is 
unjust, is to me utterly incomprehensible. How it can be said to 
be unnecessary is very mysterious. I have thought it both just and 
necessary for five or six years. How it can be said to be unex- 
pected, is another wonder. I have expected it more than five and 
twenty years, and have had great reason to be thankful that it has 
been postponed so long. I saw such a spirit in the British Islands, 
when I resided in France, in Holland, and in England itself, that I 
expected another war much sooner than it has happened. I was so 
impressed with the idea, that I expressed to Lord Lansdown, (for- 
merly Lord Shelburne,) an apprehension that his lordship would 
live long enough to be obliged to make, and that I should live long 
enough to see, another peace made between Great Britain and the 
United States of America. His lordship did not live long enough 
to make the peace, and I shall not probably live to see it; but 1 


have lived to see the war that must be followed by a peace, if the 
war is not eternal." 

When a loan was opened for the purposes of a war expenditure, 
and some efforts were made to deter capitalists from intrusting 
their money to the government, he went forward to give an exam- 
ple of confidence, and the first certificate of stock was issued on his 

The reluctance shown by some of the eastern states to co-operate 
in a strenuous prosecution of the war, was regarded by him with 
regret, but with no conviction of any deficiency on their part in 
patriotic feeling. He had known them long and well, and could not 
doubt the soundness of their principles, although he lamented the 
error of their political views. In a letter to a friend in Philadelphia 
at this period, he ascribed their backwardness to a dissatisfaction 
at not being allowed to cherish a navy; and likened their conduct 
to that of Achilles offended by being deprived of his Briseis, and 
provoked to withdraw his aid from the Grecian confederacy. The 
illustration was apt and pleasing, and evinced the generous con- 
struction that he was willing to put on the conduct of his neighbours, 
and the pertinacity with which his mind still dwelt upon a naval 
establishment as a cardinal point of national policy. 

He was now an old man, but age had overtaken him in this happy 
retirement, and had brought the venerable dignity of years, with- 
out destroying the cheerfulness of youth. His mind was perpetually 
active, and he continued to take the most lively interest in- the de- 
velopment of the happy consequences of the revolution, in the esta- 
blished prosperity of his country, and the extension of the principles 
of civil freedom to other regions of fjie globe. 

The centre of an interesting circle of friendship and affection, 
with an unabated love of reading and conversation, his declining 
years seemed to be surrounded with all the sources of felicity that 
the condition of man allows. 

His friendship with Mr. Jefferson, now also in a similar retire- 
ment, was renewed, and their intercourse revived in an interchange 
of letters, that occasionally were allowed to find their way into the 
public prints, and were universally read with the deepest interest. 
No two men were ever more fitted to give pleasure to each other, by 
a correspondence of this kind. They had passed through anxious 
scenes together, and had since been so widely separated in their 
associations, that different views of life, in many particulars, had 
been engrafted on their early community of feeling. They were 


both masters in letter writing, though not resembling each other in 
style. Mr. Adams was more plain, concise and emphatic; Mr. Jef- 
ferson more felicitous in the arrangement of words. 

All that the world has seen of the writings of Mr. Adams, includ- 
ing his numerous political documents, his revolutionary addresses, 
letters and essays, his official correspondence, reports, speeches and 
messages, his Defence of the American Constitutions, and the sup- 
plement to that work, called Discourses on Davila, published in 
1790, exhibit indisputable marks of genius, adorned by classical 
and historical learning ; and his occasional letters, written in the 
later period of his life, are distinguished by acuteness, ingenuity, 
and a striking force of imagination. 

The few incidents that diversified the even tenor of his old age 
were, with some exceptions, of a most gratifying nature. In 1815, 
he saw the second treaty of peace concluded with Great Britain, 
by a plenipotentiary commission of which his son was at the head, 
as he had been himself in that commission which formed the treaty 
of 1783. Two years after this event the political party in Massa- 
chusetts, once most vehemently opposed to him, paid him the com- 
pliment of placing his name at the top of their list of presidential 
electors; and in 1820, the convention assembled for the purpose of 
amending the state constitution, and composed of the most enlight- 
ened men of all parties, unanimously solicited him to act as their 
president. This he declined on account of his age; but the vote of 
the assembly was a spontaneous compliment paid by his fellow citi- 
zens to his virtues and services, and a delightful solace for those 
infirmities which obliged him to absent himself from their delibe- 

He had lost, in the autumn of 1818, his amiable and faithful con- 
sort, who had shared his anxieties and his felicity for more than half 
a century. This was a severe affliction amid his multiplied bless- 
ings, but he considered himself only a lingerer in this world, and 
soon to follow; and his heart responded to the sentiment expressed 
in an affectionate letter of condolence, by Mr. Jefferson, that it was 
a comfort to think the term was not very distant, when they were 
to " deposit, in the same cerement, their sorrows and suffering 
bodies, and to ascend in essence to an extatic meeting with the 
friends they had loved and lost, and whom they should still love and 
never lose again." 

The piety of Mr. Adams did not need this chastening stroke; it 
had been always fervent and sincere, and the regular attention to 
10 G 


the duties of public worship, in the church of which he was a mem- 
ber, for sixty years, and to which he afterwards bequeathed pro- 
perty worth ten thousand dollars, was one of the habits of his life 
that endured to the last. 

In the exercise of unostentatious hospitality, partaken by visitors 
from every quarter, who resorted to his house to gratify their curi- 
osity with the sight of so illustrious a man, and to share the plea- 
sures of his conversation, always rich in anecdote of times past, 
and full of political and moral instruction; surrounded by an amia- 
ble family of descendants, the last years of his protracted life glided 
tranquilly away. 

But he was reserved for an unexampled instance of human feli- 
city, and for a death so remarkable in its circumstances, as to strike 
the mind of a whole people with the impression of divine inter- 

He had seen his eldest son pass through various gradations of 
public service, with advantage to his country and honour to himself. 
He had watched with parental solicitude and pride the manifesta- 
tions of his superior virtues and abilities, and he lived to see that 
beloved son, the object of his pride and affection, elevated to the 
chief magistracy of this great and prosperous republic. 

There is no earthly joy like parental joy, as there is no sorrow 
like parental sorrow. History presents no parallel for such an 
event; no such reward was ever allowed on earth to crown a long 
life of public usefulness and virtue. 

Mr. Adams had lived too long to regard power and official eleva- 
tion as in themselves desirable, and knew, from experience, that his 
son could not escape the anxieties and cares that render the posses- 
sion of exalted stations often much less than the anticipation. But 
as the palm of virtue and high talents, honourably gained in a fair 
competition, he regarded his son's election to the presidency with a 
just and pious exultation. 

When the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence 
approached, two only of the committee that prepared that docu- 
ment, and of the congress that voted its adoption and promulgation, 
and one more besides of those who inscribed their names upon it, 
yet survived. 

That such an anniversary should be the day appointed for the 
departure of the two co-labourers, is a circumstance that will be 
looked upon with a degree of wonder proportioned to the sensibility 
of the various minds by which it is considered. The universal burst 


of feeling in all parts of this country, showed that the nation recog- 
nized something in the dispensation beyond the ordinary laws of 
human existence. 

Mr. Adams had not, until a very few days previous, shown any 
indications of a more rapid failure of strength. The fourth of July, 
1826, found him unable to rise from his bed, on account of an un- 
usual degree of debility that had come upon him two days before. 
He was not, however, aware of so near an approach of death. . On 
being asked to suggest a toast for the customary celebration of the 
day, he exclaimed, "Independence for ever!" and those were 
the last words that he was known coherently to utter. The differ- 
ent members of his family seemed to engross his attention after 
this, and at about four o'clock in the afternoon, without pain or suf- 
fering, he expired. 

It is known that the illustrious Jefferson departed a few hours 
before him ; and we cannot close this imperfect sketch more appro- 
priately, than by borrowing the language of one who most deeply 
felt the impressiveness of this solemn and memorable event. 

" They departed cheered by the benedictions of their country, to 
whom they left the inheritance of their fame, and the memory of 
their bright example. If we turn our thoughts to the condition of 
their country, in the contrast of the first and last day of that half 
century, how resplendent and sublime is the transition from gloom 
to glory ! then, glancing through the same lapse of time? in the 
condition of the individuals, we see the first day marked with the 
fulness and vigour of youth, in the pledge of their lives, their for- 
tunes, and their sacred honour, to the cause of freedom and of man- 
kind. And on the last, extended on the bed of death, with but 
sense and sensibility left to breathe a last aspiration to heaven of 
blessing upon their country ; may we not humbly hope that to them, 
too, it was a pledge of transition, from gloom to glory; and that 
while their mortal vestments were sinking into the clod of the val- 
ley, their emancipated spirits were ascending to the bosom of 
their God 1 " 


Robert Treat Paine was born in Boston, in 1731, of pious 
and respectable parents. His fatber, descended from an ancient 
and worthy family in the province, was a public teacher, and for a 
few years pastor of a church in Weymouth, near Boston. His 
mother was a daughter of the Rev. Mr. Treat of Eastham, in Barn- 
stable county, an eminent divine, and a good classical scholar. 
From such parents, no doubt, he received the best moral and reli- 
gious instruction. His early classical education was under James 
Lovell, many years the principal of a Latin school in Boston. He 
became a member of Harvard College, at the age of fourteen. Of 
his habits and acquirements at the university, however, little is now 
recollected by his family or friends. After he left the university, he 
was some months employed in keeping a public school, in a country 
town; an occupation which in New England has always been con- 
sidered honourable as well as useful. He afterwards made a voy- 
age to Europe, to which he was chiefly induced by a wish to acfpiire 
means to assist his father and family. 

Mr. Paine, before he entered on the study of the law, turned his 
attention, for some time, to theological subjects; which probably 
had the happy effect to give him clear views of the evidences of 
Christianity, of the truth of which he always declared his firm 
belief. He was a few months with the troops from the province, at 
the northward, in 1755, in the capacity of chaplain; and occasion- 
ally preached in the pulpits of the regular clergy in Boston and its 

It was about this time, that he engaged in the study of the law, 
with Benjamin Pratt, a celebrated barrister in the county of Suf- 
folk, and afterwards chief justice of the colony of New York ; and 
having no pecuniary assistance from his father, he was obliged, 
during this period, to resort again to the profession of schoolmaster 
for his support. 

He first established himself in Boston, and then removed to 



Taunton, in the county of Bristol, where he continued for many 
years; not, however, confining himself to that part of the province; 
for he frequently attended the courts in several other counties. He 
haa many qualifications for an aide and popular lawyer. He was 
learned, argumentative, discriminating, prompt and satirical. 

At this period, there is an interesting correspondence of Mr. Paine 
with Jonathan Sewall and John Adams, and other distinguished law- 
yers; and with Mr. Elliott, an intelligent merchant of Boston. The 
same professional pursuits occasioned his particular intercourse with 
the former, and the similarity of their religious views was probably 
one cause of his intimacy with the latter; though the social quali- 
ties and literary taste of Mr. Elliott were such as to render him 
highly esteemed by the intelligent men of that day. 

In September, 1768, the general court having been dissolved by 
Governor Bernard, because they would not rescind their circular 
letter to the other colonies, requesting them to act in concert for 
the public good, a convention was called by the leading men of 
Boston. Most of the towns in the province deputed some of their 
patriotic and able citizens to attend. Mr. Paine was a delegate to 
this convention from the town of Taunton. Several spirited reso- 
lutions were adopted, calculated to rouse and animate the people, 
to confirm them in their attachment to their chartered rights, and to 
show the administration in England, that, though the general court 
was dissolved, the province could act with energy and effect. The 
governor ordered them to separate, but they remained in session 
several days, contending that such a meeting for redress of griev- 
ances was strictly constitutional. 

Mr. Paine was employed by the citizens of Boston to conduct the 
prosecution, on the part of the crown, against Captain Preston and 
his men, for firing on the inhabitants of the town, on the fifth of 
March, 1770. The preference thus given him, to other legal cha- 
racters in the state, is an honourable evidence of his standing; and 
he managed the cause with such ability, as to add greatly both to 
his professional reputation and to his character as a patriot. 

In 1773, when the conduct of the British administration had 
created so much alarm, that the colonies were corresponding with 
one another, to withstand the tyrannical measures that still threat- 
ened them, a similar intercourse was established between the citi- 
zens of the capital and the other towns in Massachusetts. On this 
occasion, the town of Taunton chose a large committee, of which 
Mr. Paine was chairman. Resolutions were passed by this com- 
g '2 


mittee, the original draught of which has heen found in the hand- 
writing of Mr. Paine, not inferior, in firmness and patriotism, to 
those previously passed in Boston. 

This year he was chosen a representative to the general assem- 
bly of the province, for the town of Taunton. At this time, none 
but firm and active friends of liberty were delegated by the people. 
He was appointed on several important committees during the 
year, and was one of the members chosen to conduct the impeach- 
ment against Peter Oliver, then chief justice of the province, who 
was charged with receiving his stipend from the king, instead of a 
grant, as usual, from the assembly. This impeachment was con- 
ducted with great ability, and the proceedings are preserved in the 
journals of the house for that year. Mr. Paine was again chosen a 
representative in May, 1774, and was an active and influential 
member at that very critical period. 

Governor Hutchinson had been ordered, about this time, to Eng- 
land, and General Gage appointed his successor. The intelligent 
statesmen in the province saw a crisis approaching which would 
require all their firmness ; and perceived that the only alternative 
was submission to the arbitrary measures of a deluded and tyranni- 
cal administration, or open opposition by military force. Soon after 
the general court assembled in Boston, and was adjourned to Salem 
by Governor Gage. It was a period of great excitement and alarm. 
A committee was chosen, larger than on any former occasion, to, 
consider the state of the province, of which Mr. Paine was one. It 
was on the recommendation of this committee, that the resolution 
to appoint delegates to a general congress was taken up and finally 
passed. Mr. Paine was chosen one of the delegates. A greater 
proof of confidence in his integrity and patriotism, or a higher sense 
of his talents and firmness, could not have been given. 

It was justly concluded, that the deliberations and proceedings of 
such an assembly would have great effect ; and would, at the same 
time, be likely to result in a correct and comprehensive view of 
what the public good required. Massachusetts, and some other 
colonies, had petitioned separately; but without producing any re- 
laxation in the arbitrary and oppressive measures of the adminis- 
tration. It was important to learn the views and opinions of the 
other colonies, and to unite their efforts for the protection and wel- 
fare of the whole. 

As yet, as separation from Great Britain was not openly proposed, 
or generally contemplated; though some of our more reflecting 


statesmen, even at this period, considered it not improbable that 
this would be the final result of the controversy. The patriots of 
that day contended only for the enjoyment and exercise of rights 
believed to be guaranteed by their charter; and expected, that, on 
their firm and decided stand against the administration, their liber- 
ties would still be continued inviolate. It was under these impres- 
sions, that the first continental congress convened at Philadelphia, 
in September, 1774. The journal of their proceedings affords suf- 
ficient proof that their sentiments and views were such as have 
been stated. 

Particular reference was had, by this congress, to the efforts and 
sufferings of the people of Massachusetts — the former were highly 
approved and applauded, and the latter feelingly commiserated. For 
hitherto, the firm stand in defence of American liberty, made by 
the citizens of this province, had particularly provoked the censures 
of the British ministry; and against them chiefly, the severe and 
oppressive acts of parliament were pointed. But their patience 
and moderation were as remarkable as their decision and firmness. 
On the communication to congress, of the proceedings at a meeting 
of delegates from the several towns in the county of Suffolk, at Mil- 
ton, in September, 1774, that body unanimously resolved, " that it 
felt deeply for the sufferings of the people in Massachusetts, under 
the operation of the late unjust, cruel and oppressive acts of the 
British parliament — that it most thoroughly approved of the wisdom 
and fortitude with which opposition to those wicked measures had 
hitherto been conducted." They recommended a perseverance in 
the same firm and temperate conduct which had been already dis- 
played, particularly by the delegates of said meeting, " trusting that 
the united efforts of America in their behalf, would carry such con- 
viction to the British nation, of the unwise, unjust, and ruinous policy 
of the present administration, as soon to introduce better men and 
wiser measures." 

This session of the continental congress closed in October; but 
not without a solemn appeal to the people of America, of Great 
Britain, and to the world, that their object was solely to preserve 
and maintain their former rights, which they believed they might 
justly claim as subjects of the British empire, and which were 
guaranteed to them by their ancient charters. •' So far from pro- 
moting innovations," say they, "we have only opposed them; and 
can be charged with no offence, unless it be, to receive injuries and 
to be sensible of them. Feeling as men and thinking as subjects. 


in the manner we do, silence would be disloyalty. By giving this 
information, we do all in our power to promote the great object of 
the royal care for us, the tranquillity of government and the wel- 
fare of the people. Had we been permitted to enjoy in quiet the 
inheritance left us by our fathers, we should, at this time, have been 
peaceably, cheerfully, and usefully employed in recommending our 
selves, by every testimony of devotion to his majesty, and of vene 
ration to the state from which we derive our origin." 

In May, 1775, the continental congress met again at Philadel 
phia; and Mr. Paine was one of the five delegates chosen to attend 
from Massachusetts. He was also elected a deputy from the town of 
Taunton to the provincial congress, which sat at Concord, in Octo- 
ber, 1774; and again in February, March, and April, 1775. It is 
evident he could not have attended both the continental and pro- 
vincial congresses, during the whole of the sessions. In the latter, 
he was present a part of the time, and was one of the committee, 
in February, 1775, to consider the state of the province — but, in 
May, he again took his seat in the continental congress. These 
several appointments, however, afford unequivocal proof of the high 
sense the citizens of Taunton, and the members of the provincial 
assembly, by whom deputies to the continental congress were elected, 
had of his patriotism and talents. 

The measures adopted by the congress of this province, at this 
juncture, were not only important to the safety of Massachusetts, 
but were designed and calculated to have an effect favourable to 
the cause of liberty throughout the colonies. It was recommended 
to the people of the province to arm in defence of their violated 
rights; and an appeal was made to the other colonies, urging them 
to come forward, and to act in opposition to the arbitrary claims 
and menaces of the British administration. 

Such was the state of the country; hostilities having actually 
commenced, the tone of parliament raised, being rather threatening 
than conciliatory, and troops pouring into the country from Eng- 
land, when the second congress assembled at Philadelphia, in May, 
1775. The attention of this honourable and patriotic body was 
early engaged by the communications from the provincial congress 
of Massachusetts, stating the sufferings of the people, the effects of 
the battle of Lexington and Concord, and the threatening attitude 
of the British troops in Boston, under the command of Governor 
Gage. One of the documents thus communicated, was a spirited 
address to the people of England : which the continental congress 


so approved, that they ordered it to be published. Mr. Paine was 
one of the committee, in the provincial assembly, for considering 
the state of the country, and probably the principal agent in pre- 
paring it. 

Early in this session, it was proposed to appoint a general fast, 
on account of the troubles and dangers of the country. Mr. Paine 
was one of the committee who prepared the proclamation for this 
purpose. He was also appointed chairman of a committee to in- 
troduce the manufacture of saltpetre, and was indefatigable in his 
attention to this subject. He consulted chemists, wrote to many 
influential characters in different parts of the country, and engaged 
people in various towns throughout the provinces, to embark in the 
manufacture of this article. Their experiments were very success- 
ful in many places, and were highly beneficial to the country. Dur- 
ing this session of congress, he was appointed one of a committee 
for encouraging the manufacture of cannon. In this business he 
was also active and persevering; and his services were very im- 
portant in obtaining a supply for the army, in this and the follow- 
ing year. 

In the autumn of this year, he was deputed, with two other mem- 
bers of congress, to visit our army, on the northern frontier, under 
the command of General Schuyler. They were clothed with un- 
limited powers, as to the increase, plans, and destination of the 
troops in that quarter. This commission, which is an evidence of 
the confidence reposed in the committee, for talents, prudence, and 
decision, was discharged to the entire satisfaction of congress. Soon 
after this he was appointed chairman of a committee to make con- 
tracts for muskets and bayonets, and for encouraging the manufac- 
ture of fire-arms. 

The representatives of the people of Massachusetts, having been 
advised by the continental congress to form a government, as simi- 
lar to their former one as circumstances would permit, accordingly 
five of their most learned and eminent lawyers were appointed to 
be justices of the superior court of judicature, for the province. Of 
this court Mr. Paine was appointed one of the associates ; but con- 
sidering the situation which he then held, as rendering equal service 
to his country, he declined the office. In December, 1775, he was 
again chosen a delegate to the continental congress. 

In the month of April, 1776, he was appointed one of a commit- 
tee for procuring more cannon for the army. In June, he, with 
Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Jefferson, was desired to report rules for the 


conduct of congress in debate; in the same month he was appointed, 
with others, to inquire into the causes of the miscarriages in Canada ; 
and on the fourth day of July, when the Declaration of the Inde- 
pendence of the colonies was made and published to the world, he 
was present and gave his vote in favour of the instrument, to which 
he afterwards affixed his name. 

In December, 1776, the situation of the continental congress was 
extremely critical and perilous. The British army, consisting of 
six thousand and upwards, was making rapid advances through New 
Jersey towards the city of Philadelphia. The American troops, 
under Washington, did not exceed two thousand five hundred; and 
little assistance was to be had from the militia in the vicinity. The 
power of the enemy deterred many from open opposition, and neu- 
tralized a great portion of the people in that part of the country. 
The judicious and resolute conduct of Washington, at this time, is 
well known. The enemy were checked in their progress, and pre- 
vented from taking possession of Philadelphia. The alarm how- 
ever was so great, that congress removed to Baltimore; but con- 
tinued firm in their purpose, amidst all the dangers and difficulties 
which surrounded them. 

The reputation of Mr. Paine, for zeal in the cause of liberty, and 
for talents and activity suited to the great concerns of the country, 
was now as high as that of any man in the state. He acted from 
principle, and was fully persuaded of the justice of the cause in 
which his country had engaged. He was one of those who never 
wavered in the cause thus deliberately adopted. And when diffi- 
culties increased, he was the more resolute and active. He was 
never, indeed, very conciliatory in his deportment. There was a 
severity as well as frankness in his manner, which sometimes, un- 
justly, made him enemies. But he was intelligent, faithful to the 
trust reposed in him, and unwearied in his efforts to be useful; and 
he possessed a great portion of that sound, discriminating judg- 
ment, and practical wisdom, which are generally of more value 
than a talent for ingenious theories, without a faculty to carry into 

Mr. Paine was again elected a delegate to the continental con- 
gress, for the years 1777 and 1778. For a part of this period, also, 
he filled some of the highest offices in the government of Massa- 
chusetts. In June, 1777, he was a member of the house of repre- 
sentatives, and a part of the session acted as speaker. In the 
course of this year he was appointed attorney-general, by the una- 


nimous vote of the council and house of representatives. In 1778, 
he was one of a committee, on the part of Massachusetts, to meet 
others from the northern states, in New Haven, to regulate the price 
of labour, provisions, manufactures, & c - This was a period of 
great embarrassment and perplexity in the country. The paper 
money, which had been issued to pay the army and meet the ex- 
penses necessary to prosecute the war, had depreciated to one-half or 
one-fourth its nominal value; and the difficulty was increasing. The 
government could not command specie to pay their bills: they had, 
of course, no fixed or certain value. The articles of living were 
greatly advanced, compared with the real value of the currency. 
The soldiers complained: they were unable to support their fami- 
lies. Nor could new recruits be raised, while the currency of the 
government was at so low an estimation. Many statesmen were 
opposed to any interference on the part of government; and con- 
tended that the evil would soon remedy itself, and that laws on the 
subject would be without effect. Others who felt for the sufferings 
of the soldiers, and believed it impossible to enlist new troops, unless 
some measures were adopted to prevent the evil, and do justice to 
the army, were in favour of applying legislative aid. Mr. Paine 
was among the latter. A law passed in Massachusetts soon after, 
to prevent oppression and monopoly ; and to fix the price of the 
necessary articles of living, in reference to which the soldiers should 
have their pay regulated ; and as the paper money became less 
valuable, they were allowed a proportionably greater sum, so as not 
to suffer by its depreciation. 

He was a member of the legislature of Massachusetts, in Feb^ 
ruary, 1778, and one of a committee, of that assembly, for pre- 
paring a form of civil government or constitution for the state; and 
is reported to have been the principal agent in preparing that in- 
strument. It was not considered sufficiently explicit by the people, 
in securing their political rights; and was rejected by a large ma- 
jority of the citizens. 

In January, 1779, he was chosen one of the executive council ; 
by which, together with his former appointments, the whole of his 
time was occupied in public business. The council was then almost 
constantly in session; and the duties of his legal office were like- 
wise arduous, and required much attention. In the course of this 
year he was also elected a delegate to the convention, called to form 
a constitution for the commonwealth: and was one of the very re- 
sDectable committee, which prepared and reported the excellent 


instrument, adopted by the people in 1780; and which is still the 
happy frame of the government of Massachusetts. 

In the month of October, in this year, the government was organ- 
ized agreeably to the provisions and principles of this constitution. 
Mr. Paine was early appointed attorney-general of the common- 
wealth; and continued in that office until 1790, when he accepted a 
seat on the bench of the supreme judicial court. This appointment 
had been offered him in 1782, but he had declined it at that time, 
because the salary was insufficient to support his numerous family, 
and all the fortune he had previously acquired was sacrificed by the 
neglect that had arisen from his long and active career in the public 

Mr. Paine discharged the arduous duties of the office of attorney- 
general with singular fidelity and great legal ability: and whatever 
appearance there might be in his deportment of severity or harsh- 
ness, it is well known to his particular acquaintance, that he pos- 
sessed a great portion of the kind and humane feelings in his cha- 
racter. He was charitable in his judgment of others, and compas- 
sionate towards the afflicted and unfortunate. But of the habitually 
and obstinately vicious and dissolute, he was wont to speak with 
much indignation and severity. It has been pretended, that he was 
unkind and unfeeling as a parent. Never was there a more un- 
founded charge. 

He held the office of judge of the supreme judicial court, till 1804, 
when he had attained the age of seventy-three years. He was too 
infirm to go the circuits of these courts, which was a journey of 
several hundred miles. And his great deafness was also thought 
to be a disqualification for the office. He discharged, however, the 
important duties of this highly honourable office, for fourteen years, 
with great impartiality and fidelity. 

He was a decided friend to the constitution of the United States, 
which he supported both by his writings and conversations. He 
employed his influence in favour of the administrations of Washing- 
ton and Adams; and during the critical periods of 1794 and 1799, 
he advocated their measures of government, which he believed essen- 
tial to the interests of his country, with great zeal, energy, and 

On resigning the office of judge, he was elected a counsellor of 
the commonwealth for 1804. Subsequently to this period, and even 
till his death, he retained his mental faculties in great vigour. He 
was intelligent, inquisitive, and judicious. His memory was remark- 


ably lively and powerful; and he would relate, with much satisfac- 
tion, the scenes through which he passed, connected both with the 
dangers and prosperity of his country. In conversation with old or 
young, he was sprightly, communicative, and instructive. He was 
prone to indulge in repartee and wit; and while he allowed himself 
a playful severity towards others, he was not offended in being the 
subject of similar raillery. 

Judge Paine possessed much of the peculiar spirit of the early 
settlers of New England. He was a patron of all useful learning, 
and held a high rank among the literary men of our country. He 
was one of the founders of the American Academy, established in 
Massachusetts in 1780, and was a counsellor of that learned society 
till his death. He received also the honorary degree of doctor of 
laws from the university at Cambridge. 

He was a decided, firm believer in the Christian revelation. He 
had studied its evidences, its spirit, and its tendency, and was fully 
convinced of its divine origin. He received it as a system of moral 
truth and righteousness given by God for the instruction, reforma- 
tion, consolation, and happiness of man. If, however, it did not 
make us virtuous, benevolent, and holy, he believed it would not 
eventually benefit us ; but he laid little stress on speculative opi- 
nions, which have so often been, unhappily, the occasion of bitter 
and disreputable contentions among professors of Christianity. 

Judge Paine died on the 11th of May, 1814, after having attained 
the age of 84 years. We will conclude this imperfect memoir, by 
an extract from a sermon, delivered on the occasion, by the Rev. 
Dr. M'Kean, before the society of which the Judge had long been 
a distinguished and respected member. " His intellectual, moral, 
and religious character, were strongly marked with sterling integ- 
rity. Uprightness eminently directed his usual course of domestic 
and social duty. Justice was the constant aim of his official service. 
Of regular and temperate habits, and cheerful temper, he was 
spared to a good old age. He enjoyed his faculties unimpaired to 
the last ; retained his interest in his friends and country ; its reli- 
gious, civil, and literary institutions ; rejoiced in its good, lamented 
its delusions ; was impressed with its dangers, and prayed for its 



Elbridge Gerry, the fifth signer on the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, and also a delegate from the province of Massachusetts 
Bay, was born in the small town of Marblehead, in that colony, in 
the month of July, 1744. Of his family and early history, we have 
been able to obtain but few particulars, and, indeed, in recording 
the events of his life, important and interesting as they are, we 
have greatly to regret the difficulty of obtaining materials, beyond 
the common and temporary records which are open to the public 

The father of Mr. Gerry is said to have been a respectable mer- 
chant of Marblehead, and to have acquired a considerable fortune 
by his commercial pursuits. His son was placed at Harvard Uni- 
versity, where he passed through the usual collegiate studies with 
much literary reputation and success ; he there received the degree 
of bachelor of arts, in the year 1762. After leaving college, he 
turned his attention to that line of life in which his father's pros- 
perity seemed to hold out the greatest inducements to a young and 
enterprising mind. He plunged at once into the most active pur- 
suits of commerce; and, while yet young in business and in years, 
lie had acquired a considerable estate and a very high standing at 

These circumstances, of course, soon pointed him out for public 
office, and, in fact, his own inclinations seem to have been turned at 
an early period to the political concerns of the province, which were 
daily becoming more and more serious and important. On the 
twenty-sixth of May, 1773, he took his scat in the general court of 
Massachusetts Bay, as the representative of his native town, and he 
became, from that moment, one of the most zealous political leaders 
of our country. The time, indeed, was one of the most extreme 
interest; and the period had arrived in the controversy between 
Great Britain and her colonies, when the province was called on to 
take a leading part, which demanded unusual firmness and effort. 


N°wE<rs.o£ JMEussrtlLowe 


On the twenty-eighth of May, two days after Mr. Gerry had 
taken his seat in the house, Mr. Samuel Adams brought forward 
the celebrated resolutions which we have noticed in his life, to ap- 
point a standing committee of correspondence and inquiry, whose 
business it should be to obtain the most early and authentic intelli- 
gence, of all such acts and resolutions of the British parliament, or 
proceedings of administration as may relate to, or affect the British 
colonies in America; and to keep up and maintain, a correspon- 
dence and communication with our sister colonies, respecting these 
important considerations; and the result of such their proceedings, 
from time to time to lay before the house. 

Of this committee, Mr. Gerry was chosen a member, a proof of 
the high standing and character he had attained even before he 
entered the legislature. In all the proceedings of the committee he 
took an active and prominent part, and as his capacious mind gra- 
dually unfolded its powers, his assiduity and attention to business 
rendered him a most useful member of the legislature. 

In the month of June, we find Mr. Gerry warmly supporting Mr. 
Adams, in the measures he brought forward and pursued towards 
Governor Hutchinson, on receiving from Dr. Franklin the cele- 
brated letters written to England, with the evident intention of in- 
creasing the bitter feelings which there existed against the province. 
He also zealously united himself with that bold and distinguished 
patriot in most of those resolute measures, which he introduced 
about this period, and which resulted in the overthrow of the royal 
government of the province. To trace these various subjects, would 
be to write the history of Massachusetts rather than the life of Mr. 
Gerry: for although he was a principal mover in them, it was in 
union with other patriots and with the general co-operation of the 
whole body of the people. Through the eventful scenes which 
marked the year 1774, the impeachment of the judges, the opposi- 
tion to the importation of tea, and to the Boston port bill, the esta- 
blishment of the system of non-intercourse, and the arrangement 
of a close correspondence with the other colonies, he was active 
among the foremost. He also took a decided part in promoting the 
meetings which were held in all the large counties of the province, 
composed of committees from every town, to express their senti- 
ments on the alarming state of the country, and to consult for the 
liberties and welfare of the people. 

In the month of August, General Gage, who had succeeded 
Governor Hutchinson in the administration of the colony, had issued 


precepts foi" the choice of representatives to meet at Salem, the 
first week in October. But afterwards, in consequence of the 
county conventions, which proposed a provincial congress, and ad- 
vised that they should not acknowledge or act with "Mandamus" 
counsellors, he declared, by proclamation, that they were excused 
from assembling. On the recommendation of these county meetings, 
however, delegates were chosen from all the towns ; and assembled 
at Salem on the seventh of October. Neither the governor nor the 
council appeared to administer the usual oaths: and had they at- 
tended with that view, the delegates, no doubt, would have declined 
taking them. They formed themselves into a provincial congress; 
and, in this body, Mr. Gerry was one of the most active and effi- 
cient members. 

This assembly was composed of patriotic and resolute men, pre- 
pared for any measure which should be deemed wise or proper for 
the restoration or defence of their violated lights. They continued 
to meet by adjournments from time to time during the month, and 
to consult and adopt measures for the defence and safety of the 
province. They declared the counsellors appointed by the king and 
ministry unconstitutional; they recommended the people to refrain, 
as much as possible, from purchasing imported articles and goods 
of every description ; the constables and collectors of taxes were 
ordered not to pay any sums to the treasurer of the province, who 
had then become less opposed to the policy of ministers, and would 
be likely to pay over the same to the officers of the crown; but to 
retain it, and to pay it afterwards, as the congress might direct. 
An estimate was made of the sum necessary to be expended in pro- 
viding ordnance and military stores, in addition to the quantity then 
belonging to the province, and the estimated amount was twenty 
thousand pounds. 

They solemnly declared, that, in their opinion, nothing, except 
slavery, was more to be deprecated than hostilities with Great Bri- 
tain ; and they proceeded to choose an executive committee, with 
authority to call out, assemble, and put in military array, any por- 
tion of the militia of the province, for the protection of the citizens. 

On the first of February following, a second provincial congress 
met at Cambridge, to which Mr. Gerry was also a delegate. This 
body, as did the former, made a public appeal to the patriotism of 
the people. Much of the business of the congress, and indeed of 
all the legislative bodies in those days, was prepared and arranged 
by committees. Of these, Mr. Gerry was a principal member, and 


we find him constantly associated in them, with the most distin- 
guished citizens of the province. The two great committees were 
those of safety and supplies; and in both of them, he was very 
active. In the spring of 1775, indeed, this activity became abso- 
lutely necessary. There was a strong apprehension that troops 
would be sent to places where military stores were deposited, to 
remove them to the capital. The committee of safety, therefore, 
selected several persons to give notice of any movements of the 
British from Boston into the country; and placed a watch at Con- 
cord and at Worcester, where provisions and military articles were 
chiefly collected, for the purpose of giving an alarm to the surround- 
ing country, on the report of any such expedition. Some of the 
cannon were ordered from Concord to Groton, and some were re- 
moved from Worcester to Leicester. The committee for supplies, 
chosen some time before, was also engaged in procuring powder, 
fire-arms, bayonets, and flints, as well as various articles of provi- 
sions, to be in readiness for a large body of the militia, should it 
be necessary to call them out for the defence of the province. 
Scarcely had these measures been adopted, when the bloody scenes 
of Lexington and Concord occurred, and the war which had been 
so long dreaded, bat which also had been so long inevitable, actually 
commenced. About this period, a circumstance occurred with regard 
to the subject of our memoir, which, as it has been preserved by tra- 
dition, is worthy of insertion. The committees of safety and supplies 
had been sitting at Cambridge on the day preceding the battle of 
Lexington, and had adjourned before night; but Mr. Gerry, with 
Colonels Lee and Orne, being at a distance from their houses, de- 
termined to remain there till the next morning. In the middle of 
the night, they were alarmed by the approach of the British troops, 
on their march to Concord. When the main body came opposite 
the house in which these important committees had been sitting, a 
file of soldiers was unexpectedly detached and ordered to surround 
the house, for the purpose of taking prisoners such of the committee 
as might be there. With great difficulty and good fortune, these 
gentlemen escaped with scarcely any covering but their shirts, and 
concealed themselves till the search was over. They afterwards 
returned to spread the alarm among the citizens, and impel them 
to the noble resistance of that memorable day. Mr. Gerry con- 
tinued for some time an active and influential member of these 
committees, and was the intimate friend and confidant of the revered 
General Warren. 

12 ii 2 


On the night preceding that gentleman's departure for Bunker 
Hill, the two patriots retired to the same bed; the night was passed 
in a restless anxiety for their country, and the last words of this 
martyred hero before his departure for the "awful heights," were 
addressed to his heart's best friend, with a melancholy presentiment 
of his fate. 

Dulce et decorum est, 
Pro patria mori 

Mr. Gerry attended his duty that day in the provincial congress, 
then sitting in Watertown, and General Warren followed where his 
duty called him, to the memorable heights of Bunker, where he fell 
a martyr in the cause of liberty. 

Mr. Gerry was, some time after this, appointed by the provincial 
legislature, judge of the court of admiralty, but declined the office. 
On a new election, on the eighteenth of January, 1776, for dele- 
gates to serve in the continental congress, then in session at Phila- 
delphia, he was chosen in company with Hancock, the Adamses, and 
Paine, and took his seat in that venerable body, on the ninth of 
February following. During the spring of this year, we find Mr. 
Gerry on several important committees; on the standing committee 
for superintending the treasury, certainly at that period the most 
laborious and important of all the duties of congress ; on that for 
reporting the best ways and means of supplying the army in Canada 
with provisions and necessaries; on those appointed to inquire and 
report the best ways and means of raising the necessary supplies 
to defray the expenses of the war for the present year, over and 
above the emission of bills of credit; to devise the ways and means 
for raising ten millions of dollars; to repair to head quarters near 
New York, and inquire into the state of the army, and the best 
means of supplying their wants; to form plans for the arrangement 
of the treasury department, and the better conducting the executive 
business of congress, by boards composed of persons not members 
of that body; and on several others requiring much personal atten- 
tion, resource, and promptness in the transaction of business. He 
brought very pointedly before the house, the subject of regulating 
and restricting the sutlers who supplied the army. These, with 
various other acts equally honourable, among which we are to in- 
clude the signature of the Declaration of Independence, distin- 
guished the first term of Mr. Gerry's public service in congress, 
which closed with the year 1776. 

Before this term, however, had expired, his fellow citizens, grati- 


fied with the course he had pursued, had again elected him, and 
looking forward with bolder views, had given him instructions in 
which the latent principles of those of the preceding year were fully 
developed. With these credentials, he took his seat in congress a 
second time, on the ninth of January, 1777, and resumed, or rather 
continued the active duties of the preceding year. We find him a 
member of various committees. On the fifth of July, 1777, con- 
gress resolved that a new body, to be styled " the committee of com- 
merce," should be appointed, to consist of five members ; that this 
committee should be vested with the powers granted to the secret 
committee, and they directed the members of the late secret com- 
mittee to settle and close their accounts, and transfer the balances 
to the committee of commerce. Of this body Mr. Gerry was a 
member; it was a post, indeed, for which his previous employments 
seemed peculiarly to adapt him. A few weeks after this appoint- 
ment, he was suddenly called on to leave Philadelphia, and repair 
to the main army under General Washington, where some difficul- 
ties had arisen from improper management in the department of 
the commissary; Mr. Livingston and Mr. Clymer were associated 
with him, and congress vested them with full authority to make 
whatever provision the exigency and importance of the case might 

It would, however, be vain to attempt to trace Mr. Gerry through 
his various public employments whilst in congress. We have but 
little left even to point out what they were, and we must remain con- 
tent with the few and imperfect accounts with which the journals 
supply us. In the disastrous autumn and winter of 1777, he fol- 
lowed the fortunes of congress, driven as it was from Philadelphia 
to Lancaster, and from Lancaster to Yorktown. He took part in 
the interesting debates which so long engaged the time of the house, 
in settling the articles of confederation between the different states, 
and exerted all his political and personal influence to effect a mea- 
sure which the critical situation of the country would not allow 
longer to be delayed. He strongly opposed the plan which was in- 
troduced about this time, of depriving the small states of their 
equal representation in congress, and allowing votes in proportion 
to population; he was too well aware that such a step was fraught 
with innumerable evils on the ground of policy, if no regard even was 
to be paid to the fair claims of equal and undisputed sovereignty. 

In November, 1777, we find Mr. Gerry on a committee, reporting 
a plan for the operations of the northern army under General Gates, 


which led the way to those measures that terminated in the glorious 
defeat and capture of Burgoyne. 

As the winter approached, the condition of the army became a 
subject of great interest, and demanded immediate attention. Not- 
withstanding the large quantities of clothing which had seasonably 
been ordered from Europe for the armies of the United States, such 
had been the obstructions, from a variety of causes, that an ade 
quate supply had not been imported, and it had become necessary 
that immediate provision should be made to defend the troops from 
the inclemency of the winter, and to prevent future disappointments 
of the like nature. With this view, a resolution was brought for- 
ward, and warmly supported by Mr. Gerry, recommending the sub- 
ject to the different states; urging them to procure, in addition to 
the allowances of clothing heretofore made by congress, supplies of 
blankets, shoes, stockings, shirts, and other clothing for the com- 
fortable subsistence of the officers and soldiers of their respective 
battalions. He seems, indeed, to have particularly interested him- 
self in the situation of the army; for we find him at this period on 
a committee appointed to devise ways and means for providing a 
sufficient supply of provisions for the army; on another, to inquire 
in what manner the department of the clothier-general had been 
executed, and report such regulations as appeared necessary to be 
adopted for the better execution of that office ; and finally, instructed 
by a unanimous resolution, with Mr. Morris and Mr. Jones, forth- 
with to repair to the army, and, in a private confidential consulta- 
tion with General Washington, to consider of the best and most 
practicable means for carrying on a winter's campaign with vigour 
and success, an object which congress had much at heart ; and on 
such consultation, with the concurrence of General Washington, to 
direct every measure which circumstances required for promoting 
the public service. 

On the first of January, 1778, Mr. Gerry took his seat a third 
time in congress, having been elected by the general assembly on 
the fourth of December preceding. He had scarcely appeared, 
when we find him taking a prominent part in the affairs which arose 
out of the defeat and capitulation of the British army at Saratoga; 
a measure that had been the result of a plan of operations, in form- 
ing which, as we have already seen, he had been very zealous and 
efficient. The terms of the convention had been as favourable and 
honourable as the vanquished could expect ; the conduct of the Ame- 
rican army to the unfortunate British troops had been marked with 


generosity and kindness; and while awaiting the time of embarka- 
tion, every thing was done for them that could have been reason- 
ably demanded. On some frivolous complaint, however, made by 
a few officers, General Burgoyne chose to accuse the American 
government with a violation of the convention, and in a letter to 
General Gates, on the fourteenth of November, went so far as to 
declare that the public faith was broken. Mr. Gerry plainly saw 
the consequences to which such false scruples would lead; and that 
much of the glory and utility of an event which had secured the 
hopes of America with foreign nations, would be lost for ever. He 
therefore warmly advocated a decisive course, and fortunately for the 
country it was adopted ; a resolution was passed, that the embarka- 
tion of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne, and the troops under his com- 
mand, should be suspended till a distinct and explicit ratification of 
the convention of Saratoga should be properly notified by the court 
of Great Britain. The subsequent conduct of the British govern- 
ment, temporizing and evasive, proved at once the justice and policy 
of these measures. 

During the year 1778, Mr. Gerry renewed his exertions to im- 
prove the state and conduct of the commissary and hospital depart-' 
ments of the army; two branches of the military art, of paramount 
importance to the common soldiers, but greatly liable to neglect and 
abuse. He also exerted all his efforts to obtain an allowance for 
the soldiers, after their term of service had expired, not only those 
who were citizens of the United States, but the foreigners who had 
united their fortunes with them. No officer, however high, escaped 
his vigilant inquiries into the performance of his duties; every act 
of oppression or misconduct which came to his knowledge was 
brought promptly before congress, and fairly and fully investigated. 
The military committees of congress found him an active member, 
or a ready coadjutor, and the soldiers knew him as their steady 
advocate and friend. 

In addition to his services on military affairs, Mr. Gerry, in July, 
was appointed on a committee to which was referred a plan for the 
establishment of a new treasury board or department; in August, 
we find him, with several other members, directed to examine the 
state of the money and finances of the country, and make report 
relative to them from time to time; and in September, a report of 
the treasury board was referred to him and two other delegates, 
relating to a confederal fund, and the mode of issuing and account- 
ing for loan-office certificates. It was in the following spring, that 


the difficulties with regard to the American ministers and commis- 
sioners in Europe, which have been alluded to in the life of John 
Adams, arose, and a grand committee was appointed by congress, 
consisting of one delegate from every state, with directions to take 
the subject into full consideration. This they did, and, as appears 
by their report, with no undecided spirit. Whatever may have been 
the evils complained of, they seem to have probed them deeply, and 
advised the strongest course for their immediate remedy. They 
declared it as their opinion to congress, that ministers plenipoten- 
tiary were only necessary at that time at the courts of Versailles 
and Madrid; that in the course of their examination and inquiry, 
they found many complaints against the commissioners, and the 
political and commercial agency of Mr. Deane; which complaints, 
with the evidence in support of them, they delivered over and refer- 
red to the decision of the house. That suspicions and animosities 
had arisen among the commissioners themselves, which might be 
highly prejudicial to the honour and interests of the United States. 
They advised, therefore, that the appointments of the commission- 
ers should be vacated, and new appointments made; that there 
'should be but one plenipotentiary minister or commissioner for the 
United States at a foreign court ; that no plenipotentiary minister 
or commissioner for the United States, while he acted as such, 
should exercise any other public office; and that no person should 
be appointed plenipotentiary minister or commissioner for the United 
States, who was not a citizen of them, and who had not a fixed and 
permanent interest therein. This report gave rise to a long and 
warm debate, in which Mr. Gerry took a very leading part, anxious 
as he was to check, in the outset, a line of conduct which could not 
but embarrass us in our new relations, and might ultimately prove 
injurious to the honour and interests of the United States. 

For two or three months succeeding this period, Mr. Gerry ap- 
pears to have been absent from the house, probably called away by 
the situation of his private affairs, which his long and continued 
attention to public duties had considerably deranged. In the sum- 
mer, however, he returned; and we find him almost immediately at 
his favourite topic, the assistance of the army. He was appointed 
chairman of a committee on the subject, and soon brought in a set 
of honourable and useful resolutions, which, being adopted, infused 
new spirit into the army, and were no unimportant cause of our 
subsequent success. 

He was also, about this time, appointed with Mr. Morris and 


Mr. Dickinson, to prepare a letter to the several states, mentioning 
to them the evident intentions of the British to commence the en- 
suing campaign with new vigour, and urging them to strong efforts. 
"It is proper you should be informed," say they, "that our allies 
were much concerned to find, that preparations were not earlier 
made for a vigorous campaign. The exertions of America are 
necessary to obtain the great objects of the alliance, her liberty, 
sovereignty, and independence." 

On the fourteenth of October, 1779, Mr. Gerry offered to con- 
gress a resolution, which was immediately adopted, relative to the 
late Indian wars. For the permanent security of the frontier in- 
habitants, it was resolved, in the year 1779, to carry a decisive 
expedition into the Indian country. A considerable body of conti- 
nental troops was selected for this purpose, and put under the com- 
mand of General Sullivan, who won a signal victory over them ; 
and our frontier settlements were restored to at least a comparative 

About this period, Mr. Gerry offered as a resolution, that " as it 
might be highly injurious to the interests of these United States, to 
permit candidates for public offices to vote in, or otherwise influence 
their own elections ; that congress will not appoint any member 
thereof during the time of his sitting, or within six months after he 
shall have been in congress, to any office under the said states, for 
which he, or any other for his benefit, may receive any salary, fees, 
or other emolument." This he twice brought before the house, and 
urged it with all the strength of his talents, but without success. 

In the year 1780, Mr. Gerry retired from congress, in which he 
had served five years, with no small personal inconvenience, and 
greatly to the injury of his private affairs. In the most trying 
moments his courage and constancy remained unshaken, and his 
determination never for a moment wavered, to protect the indepen- 
dence and maintain the freedom of his country at every hazard. 
To the amelioration and protection of its safeguard, the army, his 
zealous, his unwearied efforts were constantly exerted ; during the 
whole period that he sat in the revolutionary congress, he received 
and deserved the emphatic title of the soldier's friend. General 
Washington depended on no one with more confidence for the pro- 
motion of his plans Juan on Mr. Gerry, and his confidence was never 
disappointed. In almost every principal measure relative to the 
military affairs of the times, he was conspicuous and useful; he 
even indeed exceeded the limits of his duty, perhaps his prudence 


as a statesman; for, when called accidentally to the army, he went 
so far as to enter its ranks. He solicited employment from Gene- 
ral Washington, and was allowed by him to exercise a command 
during the period he remained with the army, as a volunteer. 

Another subject by which Mr. Gerry's congressional career is dis- 
tinguished, at the period of which we speak, was his earnest atten- 
tion to the public treasury; and this is indeed fully proved by the 
facts which have been already enumerated. On all subjects of 
finance, he was able and eminent. His clear and penetrating mind 
could unravel the perplexities of a system, more confused and en- 
tangled than any other which has ever fallen within our knowledge, 
and his invention and ingenuity were in constant demand, to develope 
or apply the resources of the country. In a letter written several 
years since by Mr. Adams, the late president of the United States, 
he bears public testimony to the skill of Mr. Gerry in these subjects, 
and bestows on him the praise of originating, while a member of 
the committee of finance, the most valuable provisions of the pre- 
sent system. 

The state of Massachusetts would not, however, long permit the 
absence of Mr. Gerry from the theatre of his well-earned fame. On 
the twenty-seventh of June, 1783, by a joint ballot of both houses 
of assembly, he was elected, and on the fourteenth of August fol- 
lowing, again took his seat as a delegate from that state in congress, 
where he recommenced the active career of public usefulness which 
he had pursued at a preceding period. Scarcely, however, had he 
resumed his duties, when a subject in which he had formerly taken 
so deep an interest, was again brought to his attention, and in a 
manner not a little embarrassing. This subject was the compensa- 
tion of the troops. Congress, in the year 1780, resolved, that the 
officers of the army, who should continue therein during the war, 
should be entitled to half pay for life; and at the same time re- 
solved, that all such as should retire therefrom, in consequence of 
the new arrangement which was then ordered to take place, should 
be entitled to the same benefit; of this half pay, a commutation was 
afterwards proposed, by which five years' whole pay was granted in 
lieu of the half pay. A measure of this nature, so far from being 
obnoxious to censure, would seem to be a sacred duty; a small 
return, indeed, to those whose services were beyond price, since no 
price could have induced an army to endure the fatigues, the disas- 
ters, and the neglected sufferings of the American soldiery, had they 
not been inspired with sentiments which raised them far above a 


mercenary band. By some of the states, however, the course adopt- 
ed by congress was regarded as extravagant and partial ; wearied, 
perhaps, and exhausted by the prolonged expenses of the war, they 
were angry that peace did not bring with it the entire relaxation of 
their burdens ; and forgetful of the ills from which they had been 
saved, they regarded a pension to the disbanded troops as a pay- 
ment without equivalent. In these opinions, the state of Massa- 
chusetts took the lead, and had addressed a letter to congress, in 
which they were freely expressed. It was referred to a committee, 
who made report thereon; it was warmly and zealously debated; 
and it was again referred to a committee. In the mean time, Sir. 
Gerry had become a member of the house; his former situation, his 
peculiar knowledge and interest in the subject, and the section of 
the country whence he came, all made it desirable that his views 
should be known. He was accordingly placed on a committee with 
Mr. Huntingdon and Mr. Foster, and the matter was again ex- 
amined anew. On the twenty-fifth of September, their report was 
taken up by the house, and agreed to by a considerable majority. 
In it they replied firmly, and with much propriety, to the observa- 
tions made by the state of Massachusetts. Without dwelling on 
the reasonableness and justice of the provision itself, they observed 
that it had been granted at a critical period of the war, when our 
finances were embarrassed, our credit impaired, our army distressed, 
the officers discontented, and resignations so general, as to threaten 
the dissolution of a corps on whose military experience the public 
safety, in the judgment of the commander-in-chief, greatly depended. 
No doubt could be entertained but that congress were of opinion that 
this was the only provision, by means of which they could establish 
a military force, sufficient to protect the country against the dangers 
that surrounded it; and although it was to be regretted that such a 
provision had given uneasiness to the state of Massachusetts, yet 
its propriety was proved by experience, and its result was that 
brilliant success which had hastened the blessings of an honour- 
able peace. 

From this period, during the remainder of the year, we find Mr. 
Gerry's attention directed to all the chief objects in which the policy 
of the country was involved. The arrangement of several points 
of foreign negotiation ; the permanent residence of congress ; the 
payment and discharge of the gallant foreigners who had joined our 
army during the revolution; the settlement of bounty lands on the 
discharged soldiery; and the formation of treaties with the Indians. 
13 I 


. During the year 1784, Mr. Gerry continued to be a member of 
congress. In March, he appears as chairman of a committee, on 
which were Mr. Jefferson, and other distinguished gentlemen, to 
whom were referred several points of our foreign relations. Shortly 
afterwards, he was appointed a member of the grand committee 
instructed to revise the institution of the treasury department, and 
report whatever alterations they should think necessary. This task 
proved one of immense labour and intricacy, and is the subject of 
many long reports, which, however instructive to a financier, would 
afford but little interest to a general reader. More pleasure will 
be felt by all, in learning the efforts of Mr. Gerry to befriend the 
most disinterested of her benefactors, Baron Steuben. At the close 
of the war, he had addressed a letter to congress, enclosing his re- 
signation, and on his so doing, a committee had been appointed, 
who proposed to give him, as a compensation for his services, thir- 
teen thousand dollars, exclusive of his pay. Mr. Gerry, however, 
thought that to such a man, an act of more prompt liberality was 
due, and he proposed, in lieu of the report of the committee, the 
following resolution: "Resolved, That the superintendant of finance 
be directed to issue securities, bearing an annual interest of six per 
cent., and payable as other debts due to the army, to the said 
Major-General Baron Steuben, to the amount of forty-five thousand 
dollars, in full of all sums due to him for pay, arrearages of pay, 
rations, subsistence, half pay or commutation, and of all other de- 
mands for services and sacrifices in the cause of the United States." 
This resolution, however, was not adopted ; but a barren vote of 
thanks was passed some days after, leaving the payment of a debt 
of gratitude and honour " to be liquidated by the proper officers." 
Indignant at such a proceeding, Mr. Gerry renewed his efforts, sup- 
ported by Mr. Jefferson, that the sum often thousand dollars should 
be presented to the noble foreigner: but this also was rejected. 

On the thirtieth of April, Mr. Gerry presented a report, to con- 
gress, of much importance. It related to the commercial regula- 
tions of the states, and to the power to be exercised by that body 
on such matters; a subject which, since the termination of the war, 
had become highly interesting. He proposed that the states should 
vest in congress, for fifteen years, a power to prohibit imports or 
exports by any nation, not in alliance with us; and a resolution to 
that effect was adopted. 

On the sixth of December, 1784, Mr. Gerry took his seat in the 
old congress, for the last term during which he served in that vene- 


rable body, but he held the same prominent station, and took the 
same active part in its proceedings, which he had done in busier 
times. He served on a committee for expediting the settlement of 
public accounts; for adjusting the claims of Virginia against the 
United States; for remedying the irregular representation of the 
states in congress; and many others of much dignity and honour. 
Before he left this theatre of his reputation, he had also the satis- 
faction to find that one measure to which he had at a former period 
devoted much of his attention, and which he still had very seriously 
at heart, had attracted the favourable notice of those whom he re- 
presented, although he had not been able to prevail on congress 
itself to coincide in its views. It may be recollected that five years 
before, he had offered a resolution whose object was to prevent the 
appointment of members of congress to any office under the states, 
from which they were to receive emoluments. He had since urged 
it on the house, but had been twice defeated. Since then, his hopes 
of its passage had laid dormant, until his own state, convinced of 
the propriety of the measure, determined to sanction the views of 
her delegate by her approbation, and to aid them by her influence. 
She accordingly took up the subject with spirit, and addressed a 
series of instructions on the subject to her representatives. 

Thus closed, in September, 1785, the political career of Mr. Gerry 
in the old revolutionary congress. In it he had served through sea- 
sons of various difficulty and suffering, maintaining in them all the 
same character with which he had entered on political life — that 
of an active and resolute statesman. Among men who are now 
regarded as something above the race of ordinary politicians, he 
took an equal stand at the first, and preserved it to the last. He 
retired with the esteem and affection of those with whom he had 
served, and by whom he had been chosen; and fatigued with the 
long series of unceasing exertion, he sought in the calmer occupa- 
tions of rural leisure, that repose which for many years had been 
unknown to him. He fixed his residence at Cambridge, a village 
a few miles from Boston. 

To a man, however, of active disposition, the quiet of retirement 
soon loses much of its delight, unless age or illness has quenched 
its fires. When, therefore, his country again demanded his services, 
Mr. Gerry was not found deaf to her call. For some time past, he 
looked upon her situation with anxiety and interest. With the war 
had terminated many of those strong ties which of necessity united 
the states together. The distresses spread over the whole country 


by so sudden a revolution ; the jealousies raised or increased by a 
thousand circumstances of interest or feeling; the poverty which in 
the course of a long war had been diffused through the nation; the 
seizure and destruction of property, the annihilation of commerce, 
and the entire want of national credit; all tended to impress on the 
public mind a general dissatisfaction with the existing government. 
From this apparent failure in their expectations of an immediate 
increase of political happiness, the lovers of liberty and indepen- 
dence began to be less sanguine in their hopes from the American 
revolution, and to fear that they had built a visionary fabric of 
government, on the fallacious ideas of public virtue; but that elas- 
ticity of the human mind which is nurtured by free institutions, kept 
them from desponding. By an exertion of those inherent principles 
of self-preservation which republics possess, a recurrence was had 
to the good sense of the people, for the rectification of fundamental 
disorders. While the country, free from foreign force and domestic 
violence, enjoyed tranquillity, a proposition was made by Virginia 
to all the other states, to meet in convention for the purpose of 
digesting a form of government equal to the exigencies of the 
Union. The first motion for this purpose was made by Mr. Madi- 
son: but the other states, convinced of the utility of the measure, 
gradually concurred in it ; and it was at length agreed that a con- 
vention of delegates, to be appointed by the several states, should 
be held in the month of May, 1787, at Philadelphia, for the sole 
and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation, and 
reporting to congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations 
and provisions therein, as should, when agreed to in congress, and 
confirmed by the states, render the federal constitution adequate to 
the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union. 

To this convention Mr. Gerry was appointed, as a representative 
of Massachusetts. Impressed with the necessity of a more ener- 
getic system than the old confederation, and governed by the repub- 
lican principles in which he had been educated, he endeavoured to 
guard the new government from extremes which he considered 
equally dangerous. The propositions for introducing a new sys- 
tem, designated by some of its opponents as aristocratical and even 
monarchical, but which it scarcely seems proper to consider in so 
strong a light, found in him a strenuous opponent; and it is pro- 
bable that the sternness of his republicanism contributed to the 
securing of many of the best features which the constitution contains. 
Still however, after all the alterations which he and the friends 


who coincided in his views were able to obtain, there appeared to 
him features so objectionable and so dangerous to the rights of his 
constituents, that he manfully declined affixing his signature to the 
instrument. Lest, however, his views in so doing should be mis- 
represented, or not fully understood, he took an immediate oppor- 
tunity to address a letter to his constituents on the subject. " It 
was painful for me," he observes, " on a subject of such national 
importance, to differ from the respectable members who signed the 
constitution. But, conceiving as I did, that the liberties of America 
were not secured by the system, it was my duty to oppose it. 

" My principal objections to the plan are, that there is no ade- 
quate provision for a representation of the people ; that they have 
no security for the right of election; that some of the powers of the 
legislature are ambiguous, and others indefinite and dangerous; 
that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influ- 
ence over the legislature; that the judicial department will be op- 
pressive ; that treaties of the highest importance may be formed by 
the president, with the advice of two-thirds of a quorum of the 
senate; and that the system is without the security of a bill of 
rights. These are objections which are not local, but apply equally 
to all the states." 

The views of Mr. Gerry were not singular ; they had been enter- 
tained by some of the most distinguished patriots and statesmen in 
other states; and in his own, they were very generally approved. 
When the constitution was submitted to the state convention, it was 
ratified only by a majority of nineteen voices, in an assembly of 
three hundred and sixty members, and to the ratification were ap- 
pended various amendments, coinciding with the views of Mr. Gerry. 

Although this would seem to be a sufficient justification of a 
manly course, which could have been dictated by no ideas of per- 
sonal benefit to himself, but was rather opposed to them, it was not 
sufficient to save him from the attacks of party spirit. He was 
assailed immediately by the partisans of the day, and censured with 
all the illiberality and acrimony that hostile politics could suggest. 

At the election for members of the first congress under the new 
constitution, the inhabitants of the district in which Mr. Gerry re- 
sided, chose him as their new representative, and under a new form 
of government he resumed that seat, and renewed those active ser- 
vices, which he had for so many years faithfully discharged under 
the old one. Neither the character nor extent of this memoir will 
permit us to enter into the minute detail of the various political 


movements of Mr. Gerry, dining the two terms that he served in 
congress. In the financial operations he continued always to take 
peculiar interest, and on such subjects was, perhaps, of all debaters 
in the house, the one who was listened to with the most confidence. 
The army, too, was not forgotten, for he never allowed an occasion 
to pass unused in which he could aid them in their difficulties, or 
redress their grievances. Fully sensible of the necessity and duty of 
mutual co-operation, he united cheerfully in carrying into effect that 
system, to which he had indeed been, in some degree, individually 
opposed, but which had received the approbation of his country ; 
and he had not been long in congress, before he took occasion to 
make the manly and honourable declaration, " that the federal con- 
stitution having become the supreme raw of the land, he conceived 
the salvation of the country depended on its being carried into 
effect." After serving four years in congress, he was again pro- 
posed as a delegate ; but anxious to return to the enjoyments of 
domestic life, from which the new state of things had drawn him, 
he declined a re-electien, and retired to his farm at Cambridge. 

It was during this period of Mr. Gerry's retirement, that the 
aggressions on the rights and commerce of the United States were 
commenced by Fiance. The citizen Genet made his singular pro- 
gress through the country, and after an embassy unparalleled in the 
history of diplomacy, was recalled. General Pinckney was sent to 
France to negotiate, but was not received. American vessels were 
captured by French cruisers, wherever found. The French minis- 
ter had endeavoured to interfere directly in the election of the chief 
executive magistrate. And in a word, every thing had been done 
to drive the nation into a violation of that neutrality which it had 
determined to support. It was in this state of things, that Mr. Adams 
was called to the presidential chair, and adopted that system with 
regard to our foreign relations, which has been briefly noticed in 
the preceding sketch of his life. Though keenly sensible of the 
indignities offered to his country, he was so fully impressed with the 
importance of peace, to its advancement and happiness, that, in his 
speech to congress, in June, 1797, he informed them, "that as he 
believed neither the honour nor the interest of the United States 
absolutely forbade the repetition of advances, for securing peace 
and friendship with France, he should institute a fresh attempt at 
negotiation." To give all the weight and solemnity that he could 
to this embassy, the president determined to select men, whose long 
services and acknowledged talents had made them illustrious at 


home and abroad. His choice fell on Mr. Gerry, who was thus 
again drawn from retirement ; General Pinckney, who had already 
been appointed an ambassador to France, and Mr. Marshall, the 
subsequently distinguished chief justice of the United States. These 
gentlemen were instructed to pursue peace and reconciliation by all 
means compatible with the honour and faith of the United States. 
On their arrival in Paris, the directory, under frivolous pretexts, 
delayed to accredit them, as the representatives of an independent 
nation. In this unacknowledged situation, they were addressed by 
persons, who, though not invested with formal authority, exhibited 
evidence of their being tools of government. In direct and explicit 
terms, they demanded a large sum of money from the United States, 
as the condition which must precede any negotiation, on the sub- 
sisting differences, between the two countries. To this degrading 
demand, the envoys returned a decided negative. The unofficial 
agents, nevertheless, urged them to comply, and enlarged on the 
immense power of France; and particularly insisted, that to her 
friendship alone America could look for safety. The envoys, after 
some time, refused to hold any further communication with these 
agents. Though not received in their public characters, they sent 
a letter to the French secretary of foreign relations, in which they 
entered into the explanations committed to them by their govern- 
ment, and illustrated, by facts, the uniform friendly disposition of 
the United States towards France. This effort failed, and every 
circumstance concurred to prove, that all further attempts would be 
equally useless. They nevertheless continued to wait events, with 
a patience that demonstrated their sincere desire to avert a rupture 
between the two countries. At length, however, in the spring of 
1798, two of the envoys, Messrs. Pinckney and Marshall, were 
ordered to quit the territories of France; but Mr. Gerry was in- 
vited to remain and resume the negotiation which had been inter- 
rupted, and he consented to do so. 

At the time, the course thus adopted by Mr. Gerry was censured 
by his political opponents. Yet calmly and dispassionately examined, 
it seems to be one dictated by prudence, and perfectly consistent 
with national and individual honour. Although the instructions to 
him and his colleagues had invested them with a separate as well 
as joint power to negotiate a treaty of peace, Mr. Gerry uniformly 
refused, after the departure of the other ministers, to enter into 
suih a negotiation. He declared at once and distinctly, that his 
obioct in remaining was not to pursue those plans which could, and 


if intended, ought to have been discussed by the whole embassy, 
but to promote, as far as his individual powers allowed, such other 
objects of his government as he might do without their aid. Alto- 
gether, this mission was one of the most unpleasant for the minis- 
ters, though most beneficial for the nation, in which our government 
has ever been engaged ; for although it did not succeed in effecting 
a treaty, and was never even publicly acknowledged by the French 
ministry, yet it certainly opened the way for a termination of hostile 
feelings, and led eventually to the preservation of the peace of the 
country. That these ends were attained in no small degree by the 
prudence, judgment, and ability of Mr. Gerry, seems now to be 
generally admitted; but if it were not, it is proved by an authority 
so strong, that impartial history will not hesitate to award to him 
the merit to which he is fairly entitled. Speaking of his nomination 
on this embassy, the late president, Mr. Adams, has thus remark- 
ed: — " he was nominated and approved, and finally saved the peace 
of the nation, for he alone discovered and furnished the evidence 
that X. Y. and Z. were employed by Talleyrand; and he alone 
brought home the direct, formal, and official assurances, upon which 
the subsequent commission proceeded, and peace was made." 

On his return from France, Mr. Gerry was supported by the 
republican party in Massachusetts for the office of governor, and 
defeated. Mr. Gerry subsequently declined being a candidate, not- 
withstanding the earnest solicitations of his political friends. He 
consented, however, to have his name placed on the electoral ticket 
of 1805, when the republicans, for the first time, succeeded. 

From that period Mr. Gerry spent his time in the cultivation of 
his farm, and in correspondence with the first men of this country 
and Europe, with whom his active public life had connected him. 
The flagitious attack on the Chesapeake frigate, by the British ship 
of war Leopard, kindled again the same feelings which the murder 
at Lexington, in 1775, had first warmed in his bosom; with the 
alacrity of youth he hastened to preside at a large meeting of his 
fellow citizens in Boston, collected from that and the neighbouring 
towns, and in the animated language of patriotism, declared to the 
assembly, that " at a crisis so momentous and interesting to our 
beloved country, he held it to be the duty of every citizen, though he 
might have but one day to live, to devote that day to the public good." 

In 1810, Mr. Gerry was prevailed upon to permit his name to be 
placed on the republican ticket, as a candidate for the chief magis- 
tracy of Massachusetts and was elected. The elevation of Governor 


Gerry to this honourable station, was received with the greatest 
satisfaction by his republican friends throughout the United States. 

From the whole tenor of Mr. Gerry's actions and political life, it 
will be perceived that he was a decided friend of those measures 
which characterized the party at this time in power. The Federal 
party nominated Mr. Gore in opposition to him, but without success; 
Mr. Gerry was again chosen governor of the state, by a majority 
considerably larger than that of the preceding year. 

Of the measures of Governor Gerry, one especially worthy of 
record is his recommendation made to the legislature of Massa- 
chusetts, in January, 1812, relative to the patronage and improve- 
ment of our domestic manufactures. It arose from a complaint 
made by the Indians, that owing to the suspension of our trade with 
Great Britain, they did not receive the usual supplies of goods with 
which they had been furnished. "In the year 1775," says Mr. 
Gerry, " when our war with Great Britain commenced, and when, 
immediately preceding it, a non-importation act had been strictly 
carried into effect, the state of Massachusetts apportioned on their 
towns, respectively, to be manufactured by them, the articles of 
clothing wanted for their proportion of the army which besieged 
Boston ; fixed the price and qualities of those articles, and they were 
duly supplied within a short period. Thus before we had arrived 
at the threshold of independence, and when we were in an ex- 
hausted state, by the antecedent, voluntary and patriotic sacrifice 
of our commerce, between thirteen and fourteen thousand cloth 
coats were manufactured, made, and delivered into our magazines, 
within a few months from the date of the resolve which first com- 
municated the requisition. Thirty-six years have since elapsed, 
during twenty-nine of which we have enjoyed peace and prosperity, 
and have increased in numbers, manufactures, wealth and resources, 
beyond the most sanguine expectations. All branches of this govern- 
ment have declared their opinion, and I conceive, on the most solid 
principle, that as a nation, we are independent of every other for 
the necessaries, conveniences, and for many of the luxuries of life. 
Let us not then, at this critical period, admit any obstruction which 
we have power to remove, to discourage or retard the national 
exertions for asserting and maintaining our rights; and above all, 
let us convince Great Britain, that we can and will be independent 
of her for every article of commerce, whilst she continues to be the 
ostensible friend, but implacable foe, of our prosperity, government, 
union, and independence." 


As the period for a new election of governor approached, the 
democratic party in Massachusetts a third time solicited Mr. Gerry 
to offer himself as a candidate; this he at first declined, but viewing 
the success of the principles which he had avowed as in some degree 
connected with his return, he consented to serve again in the exe- 
cutive office. During the past year, however, either his popularity 
had decreased or his political opponents had augmented their 
strength; and he lost his election by a small majority. 

It seemed, however, that advanced as Mr. Gerry was in age, and 
wearied as he might well be with public office, (for forty years had 
nearly elapsed since he had entered on his political career,) he was 
yet destined to serve his country, and to close his active life in the 
full enjoyment of her honours. At a meeting of the republican 
members of congress, he was, in June 1812, by a unanimous vote, 
recommended to the people of the United States as a proper person 
to fill the office of vice-president, for four years, from the fourth day 
of March following. This was announced to him by a committee 
of the meeting, in a letter, to which he immediately replied. "The 
question," he observed, respecting the acceptance or non-acceptance 
of this proposition, involved many considerations of great weight in 
my mind ; as they related to the nation, to this state, and to my 
domestic concerns. But it is neither expedient or necessary to 
stale the points, since one was paramount to the rest, that ' in a 
republic, the service of each citizen is due to the state, even in pro- 
found peace, and much more so when the nation stands on the 
threshold of war.' I have the honour frankly to acknowledge this 
distinguished testimony of confidence, on the part of my congres- 
sional friends and fellow citizens, gratefully to accept their proffer, 
and freely to assure them of every exertion in my power, for meriting 
in office the approbation of themselves and of the public." The 
recommendation was accepted by his countrymen, and he was elected 
to the second office of the republic, by a majority of forty-one votes. 

On the fourth of March, 1813, Mr. Gerry was inaugurated vice- 
president of the United States, being attended, at the time, by his 
venerable friend and revolutionary companion John Adams. At the 
meeting of the senate on the twenty-fifth of May following, he took 
his seat as constitutional president of that body, and delivered an 
address to them, setting forth at large his opinions and views on 
the great events of political interest which then occupied the attention 
of the nation. He concluded it in the following terms : " Your 
fellow citizen, with sensations which can be more easily conceived 


than expressed, perceives that there are in the government many 
of his former friends and compatriots, with whom he has often co- 
operated in the perilous concerns of his country; and with unfeigned 
pleasure he will meet the other public functionaries, whose acknow- 
ledged abilities and public services in like manner claim his high 
consideration and respect. With a sacred regard to the rights of 
every department and officer of government, and with a respectful 
deference to their political principles and opinions, he has frankly 
declared his own ; for to have concealed them at a crisis like this, 
might have savoured too much of a want of candour. 

" And may that Omnipotent Being, who with infinite wisdom and 
justice superintends the destinies of nations, confirm the heroic 
patriotism which has glowed in the breasts of the national rulers, 
and convince the enemy, that whilst a disposition to peace, on 
equitable and honourable terms, will ever prevail in their public 
councils, one spirit, animated by the love of country, will inspire 
every department of the national government." 

From this period Mr. Gerry devoted himself, with undeviating 
attention, to the duties of his office. He presided constantly over 
the deliberations of the senate, and, by his strict impartiality and 
candour, gave that satisfaction in the latest, which he had done in 
the earliest actions of his political life. Providence, however, did 
not long permit him to enjoy the dignity which he had so well earned, 
but called him in the midst of his honours, but full of years, from 
the scene of his earthly labours. The date and circumstances of 
his death are thus recorded, on a plain monument, which congress 
caused to be erected over his remains in the congressional burial 
ground at Washington. 

The Tomb of 

Vice-President of the United States, 

Who died suddenly in this city, on his way to the 

capitol, as President of the Senate, 

November 23, 1814, 

Aged 70. 

Thus fulfilling his own memorable injunction — " It is the duty of 
every citizen, though he may have but one day to live, to devote 
that day to the service of his country." 


Josiah Bartlett was born at Amesbury, Massachusetts, in No- 
vember, 1729. He was instructed, at an early age, in the rudi- 
ments of the Greek and Latin languages, which, from his natural 
capacity and tenacious memory, he rapidly acquired. At the age 
of sixteen he commenced the study of physic. 

He completed his medical education in the year 1750, and, at the 
age of twenty-one, commenced the practice of his profession at 
Kingston. He resided in the family of the Rev. Joseph Secombe, 
a pious and well-informed minister, to whose collection of valuable 
books he had free access. In 1752, he was attacked with an alarm- 
ing fever, which had nearly proved fatal. Exhausted by the vio- 
lence of the medicines administered, and by the exclusion of air 
from his chamber, his life appeared to be rapidly drawing to a close, 
and his physician pronounced his case to be hopeless ; when Dr. Bart- 
lett, whether actuated by a belief in its efficacy, or by one of those 
inexplicable longings which often sway the mind of the invalid, pre- 
vailed upon two young men, who attended him during the night, to 
procure him a quantity of cider, and give it to him as he should 
direct. They, at first, peremptorily declined acceding to a wish, 
the gratification of which was contrary to medical orders, and might 
even make them accessary to his death. His arguments and impor- 
tunities, however, prevailed, and the cider being procured, he swal- 
lowed a small quantity at intervals during the night. Each draught 
cooled the fever, invigorated his body, and was followed by evident 
amendment. In the morning, the powers of nature became so much 
revived, that a copious perspiration took place, which immediately 
checked the disease. Ever after this event, Dr. Bartlett cautiously 
observed the operation of nature in all diseases, and never submitted 
to dogmatical rules in prescribing for his patients. This practical 
experiment having emancipated his mind from the trammels of an 
arbitrary system, he founded his practice upon the details of nature 
and experience. With these principles, he commenced his career 



of public usefulness, and speedily became popular as a physician, 
obtaining a large portion of practice, both lucrative and honourable 
to himself, and highly useful to the people. He first discovered the 
utility of the Peruvian bark in remedying the throat distemper, 
or angina maligna tonsillaris, which then raged at Kingston, and 
which he proved to be a highly putrid, instead of inflammatory 
disease: the physicians had previously believed it to be, and had 
unsuccessfully treated it, as the latter. 

The integrity and decision of character which Dr. Bartlett pos- 
sessed in an eminent degree, soon attracted the attention and con- 
fidence of his fellow citizens. He was first appointed to the magis- 
tracy, and, after filling various honourable offices, finally attained 
the highest dignities of the state. About the period of his nomina- 
tion as a magistrate, he was also appointed by Governor Wentworth 
to the command of a regiment of militia, in which he discharged 
his duties with promptness and fidelity. 

In the year 1765, Dr. Bartlett began his political career, as the 
representative of the town of Kingston in the legislature of the pro- 
vince of New Hampshire. Benning Wentworth, the former go- 
vernor, had granted charters for a number of towns, reserving some 
of the best rights for himself, and valuable tracts for the benefit of 
the Episcopal church. The new governor re-granted several towns 
which his predecessor had before chartered, and chartered new 
towns interfering with the former grants, taking care to follow the 
example of the late governor, by appropriating some of the best 
lands in each grant to himself. The injured parties and their 
friends, together with all those who valued rectitude in public pro- 
ceedings, strongly complained of this infringement of common jus- 
tice. The greater part of the people were also Puritans in senti- 
ment, and disliked the grants to the Church of England: they sus- 
pected that the British government intended artfully to establish 
that kind of religion in America. This produced jealousies and 
collisions between the governor and his party, and the patriots and 
aggrieved people: Dr. Bartlett took an active part in support of 
the latter, as one of the then minority. 

But, although this was a matter of considerable interest and im- 
portance to the province, another subject infinitely dearer to them 
had been arising for some years. This was the controversy between 
Great Britain and her colonies. 

Dr. Bartlett was a zealous and active member, and invariably 
acted upon principles of patriotism, and in support of the rights of 


the people. Private meetings of the leaders of opposition, the prin- 
cipal among whom were Dr. Bartlett, Dr. Thompson, Colonel Gid- 
dinge, and Colonel Nathan Folsom, were held. At the meeting of 
the assembly in the spring of 1774, the house of representatives, 
conformably to the proceedings of the assemblies in the other colo- 
nies, appointed a committee of correspondence. The governor im- 
mediately dissolved the assembly, hoping by that means to dissolve 
the committee also. But the representatives re-assembled, and ad- 
dressed circulars to all the towns in the province, requesting them 
to send deputies to hold a convention at Exeter, for the purpose of 
choosing delegates to a general congress, to meet in Philadelphia 
in September, 1774. 

Dr. Bartlett retained his seat in the provincial assembly, and con- 
tinued to oppose himself with unabating vigour to the arbitrary de- 
signs of the British ministry. The collisions between the governor 
and assembly, indeed, were now continual, and the former was 
obliged to resort to repeated prorogations; these he continued until 
the year 1775, when it became manifest, from the obstinacy of the 
British parliament and royal governors, that either a civil war or 
submission to slavery would speedily take place. In the month of 
February, 1775, Dr. Bartlett received very flattering testimonials 
of the spirited and patriotic tenor of his conduct: he was formally 
notified by the clerk of the court of common pleas under Governor 
Wentworth, that his name was erased from the commission of the 
peace for the county of Rockingham, and received a letter, bearing 
the same date, advising him that the governor had, with the advice 
of counsel, dismissed him from his command in the militia. 

The events of the year 1775 imposed arduous duties upon the 
committee of safety, several of whom, and, among the rest Dr. Bart- 
lett, were members of the colonial assembly, in which a strong 
majority had become opposed to Governor Wentworth. On the 
fourth of Jlay, he summoned a new assembly, and determined, as 
he said, "to plant the root of peace in New Hampshire;" he laid 
before them the proposal made and voted in parliament, which was 
called Lord North's conciliatory proposition. The house desired a 
short recess, and the governor consented to adjourn them till the 
twelfth of June. But the American blood, which had, on the nine- 
teenth of April, been shed at Lexington, and the absurd and incon- 
sistent conduct of General Gage, had highly exasperated the people. 

At the adjourned meeting of the twelfth of June, the governor 
again recommended "the conciliatory proposition;" but the first 


step taken by the house, in obedience to the voice of the convention, 
was to expel the three members whom the governor had summoned 
by the king's writ; upon which he adjourned the assembly to the 
eleventh of July. Colonel Trenton, one of the expelled members, 
having freely indulged in abusive language out of doors, was assault- 
ed by the populace of Portsmouth, and took shelter in the governor's 
house. The people demanded him, and planted a cannon before 
the door; upon which the offender was delivered up and conveyed 
to Exeter : the governor, conceiving himself insulted, retired on 
board the Fowey man of war, then lying in the harbour. 

At the next meeting of the assembly, on the eleventh of July, the 
duties of Dr. Bartlett were extremely arduous, being at the same 
time a member of that body, of the committee of safety, and of 
the provincial convention. He was, however, soon relieved from 
the first mentioned, as Governor Wentworth sent a message to the 
house, and adjourned them to the twenty-eighth of September. 
Having previously retired to Boston, the governor, in September, 
went to the Isle of Shoals, and there issued a proclamation, adjourn- 
ing the assembly to the next April. This was the final act of his 
administration, and the last time he was within the boundaries of 
the province. Thus terminated the British government in New 
Hampshire, where it had subsisted ninety-five years. 

In September, 1775, Dr. Bartlett was appointed to command a 
regiment by the first provincial congress, of which Matthew Thorn- 
ton was president. The committee of safety was continued by that 
congress, and had full executive and legislative powers granted to 
them during its recess. They planned a re-organization of the 
state, and framed an oath of allegiance, which every individual was 
compelled to take; those who refused were confined until they 
acceded to it. This oath was called in pleasantry the "chevaux 
de frise." 

On the twenty-third of August, 1775, he was chosen a delegate 
to the continental congress in the room of John Sullivan, who was 
engaged in the army, and took his seat in that body on the sixteenth 
of September following. His attention to the important duties of 
his station was strict and incessant until the month of March, 1775, 
when he returned home. After a short stay, he again repaired to 
Philadelphia, where he resumed his arduous and laborious task. 

On the twenty-third of January, 1776, a second election for dele- 
gates to the continental congress occurred, and Dr. Bartlett was 
again chosen. His colleagues in this honourable office were two 


of his most attached personal friends, William Whipple and John 
Langdon. The former long served with him in congress, and their 
signatures are found together on the charter of Independence. Mr. 
Langdon, owing to an appointment to another office lost the oppor- 
tunity of recording his patriotic sentiments in the same conspicuous 

The question of independence had been for some time in agitation, 
and for several months preceding freely and fully discussed. In 
many places, it may be observed, public opinion was much divided; 
the partisans of Great Britain of course strongly opposed it, and 
there were not a few of the best friends of the country who enter- 
tained strong doubts of the policy of the measure at that moment ; 
the more firm and zealous patriots, however, used every argument 
in its support, and warmly urged its adoption without delay. The 
result of their efforts in congress was the vote of the first of July, 
in favour of independence. From that period until the fourth, the 
measure was fully, calmly, and deliberately discussed, so that as 
much unanimity as possible might be obtained on the final question. 
On that memorable day, the decisive vote was taken, which re- 
sulted in the unanimous declaration of all the states in favour of 
independence. In taking the question the northernmost colony 
was first called on, and Dr. Bartlett had the accidental, but inter- 
esting duty of first giving his voice in favour of the resolution. Dur- 
ing the autumn of the year he remained faithfully at his post. 

On the twenty-fourth of December, 1776, Dr. Bartlett was re- 
appointed a delegate to congress by the provincial government; his 
health, however, had been so much impaired, and he was so worn 
down by fatigue, that before the close of the year he returned to 
New Hampshire, and did not again take his seat until 1778. In the 
mean time, however, he was engaged in other public duties in New 
Hampshire, and also in providing for the forces of the intrepid 
Stark at Bennington, whose troops were solely under the control 
of that state. 

Dr. Bartlett was again elected a delegate to congress, which 
then sat at Yorktown, on the fourteenth of March, 1778, together 
with John Wentworth, junr., and resumed his seat on the twenty- 
first of May : the bad health of Mr. Wentworth prevented his long 
attendance, and he returned the first of August. Dr. Bartlett, 
however, resumed his duties with his former vigour. 

After the evacuation of Philadelphia by the British, congress 
adjourned on the twenty-seventh of June to meet in that city on the 


second day of July. The delegates dispersed from Yorktown at 
different times, and in different companies, according to their con- 
venience. Dr. Bartlctt, however, was only accompanied by his 
servant : they were obliged to pass through a wood of considerable 
extent, which was infested by a band of robbers, supposed to be 
about twenty in number, who plundered all who travelled through 
it. In those times of violence and distress, many people, who had 
been driven from their homes and occupations by the movements 
of contending armies, resorted to this desperate mode of life, to 
obtain subsistence ; or probably some renegado tories, of the class 
then called " cow boys," may have composed this band. When 
Dr. Barlett and his attendant had arrived at the tavern near the 
wood, they stopped to refresh themselves and their horses : here 
they were informed that it was dangerous to pass alone, as the rob- 
bers were then particularly on the alert. At the same time an 
anecdote was related relative to the paymaster of the army, who 
took a large quantity of paper money from Yorktown, a few weeks 
before, to the army under General Washington. This gentleman 
was an officer of the army; he was alone, and when he reached the 
skirts of the wood, he learned the active spirit and supposed number 
of the gang. Finding that it would be hazardous to proceed in his 
proper character, he laid aside his military coat and every appear- 
ance of rank, took an old shabby horse, saddle, bridle, and farmer's 
saddle-bags, in which he deposited his money, and set off in the 
steady jog of a country friend. When he had arrived at a certain 
part of the forest, he was met by two of the band, who demanded 
his money. He saw others around at some distance in the wood, 
but his presence of mind and equanimity were equal to the task, 
and assuming the Quaker air and seriousness, he told them that he 
possessed little money ; but that, if they had a better right to it than 
himself and family, they might take it. He then spoke of moral 
and religious duties, at the same time taking from his pocket a few 
small silver and copper pieces, which he offered to them. They 
were so completely deceived by this manoeuvre, that, after observing 
that he was " a poor Quaker, and not worth robbing," they suffered 
him to pass on without touching his money. He saluted them with 
a friendly "farewell," and proceeding in his old jog, passed through 
the wood, and carried the money safely to the army. 

While Dr. Bartlett was refreshing himself, several other delegates, 
with their servants, arrived: they all prepared their side-arms, and 
setting off together, passed through the forest without interruption. 
15 k 2 


When they arrived at Philadelphia, they found great alterations 
made by the enemy in that city. " The congress," he writes, 
" meets in the college hall, as the state house was left by the enemy 
in a most filthy and sordid situation, as were many of the public and 
private buildings in the city: some of the genteel houses were used 
for stables, and holes cut in the parlour floors, and their dung 
shovelled into the cellars. The country northward of the city for 
several miles is one common waste ; the houses burnt, the fruit 
trees and others cut down and carried off, fences carried away, 
gardens and orchards destroyed ; Mr. Dickinson's and Mr. Morris' 
fine seats all demolished; in short, I could hardly find the great 
roads that used to pass that way: the enemy built a strong abbatis 
with the fruit and other trees, from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, 
and at about forty or fifty rods distance along the abbatis, a quad- 
rangular fort for cannon, and a number of redoubts for small arms; 
the same on the several eminences along the Schuylkill, against the 
city." Nor was it only in objects of this kind, that the consequences 
of the British invasion of Philadelphia were seen; their various de- 
vices became more palpable, by which they endeavoured to sway 
the opinions of the Americans, and lead them into subjugation 
through the agency of their own credulity and vanity. They had 
tried a pretended spirit of reconciliation in the year 1776, when con- 
gress had deputed Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Rutledge, 
to meet Lord Howe, at the request of the latter. The palpable 
intention was to lessen the enthusiasm of the people in favour of 
liberty, and bias their sentiments against revolutionary principles, 
and not to come to an equitable accommodation: the commission 
of Lord Howe did not contain any other authority than that expressed 
in the act of parliament, which was that of granting pardons, with 
such exceptions as the commissioners might think proper to make, 
and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be in the king's peace, 
upon submission. It is unnecessary to add in what manner a con- 
ference grounded upon such principles terminated. The British 
had also endeavoured to impose upon the credulity of the Americans 
through the medium of a paper printed in New York, commonly 
known among the whigs by the name of the "Bivington Lying 
Gazette;" it was disseminated as widely as possible, and attempts 
were made by the instrumentality of the tories, to induce American 
printers to copy from it. They tempted the venality of the leading 
citizens and public officers, of which Arnold was a dark example, 
and tried the force of fashion amongst the vain and weaker part of 


the community. Public sentiment in all communities, as well as 
manners and customs, are swayed by the ideal tyrant fashion. As 
colonies, we were nurtured under this imaginary phantom, emanating 
from the parent country, and continually changing-. Since the non- 
intercourse with Great Britain, our customary habits had remained 
nearly the same, with the exception of a few changes, recommended 
by the government, in relation to tea, to mourning, and to domestic 
manufactured cloth. But, after the British entered Philadelphia, the 
ladies attendant on their army taught the American ladies of that 
city the use of high head-dresses, crape cushions, and other extra- 
vagancies of London fashions. When the British evacuated Phila- 
delphia, the ladies of the tory families always appeared with their 
fashionable apparatus, while the gentlemen had dismissed their 
small round hats, and substituted a large kind, decorated with three 
corners. These customs beginning to prevail among the other 
citizens, some of the wings, in order to check their progress by 
salutary ridicule, dressed a negro wench in the full costume of a 
loyal lady, conveyed her to the place of resort where the fashionables 
displayed their towering topknots and jutting magnificence, and 
seated her in the most conspicuous place. They afterwards carried 
her through the city, to the great chagrin of the devotees of the 
visionary divinity. But nothing could stem the progress of the 
fashion, which, for a season, became general throughout America. 

Dr. Bartlett was again elected a member of congress, on the 
nineteenth of August, 1778, and on the thirty-first of October fol- 
lowing obtained leave of absence, and returned home for the pur- 
pose of attending to his domestic concerns, which had greatly suf- 
fered from the want of his care and superintendence. He never 
again appeared as a member of that body, but devoted himself with 
unabated zeal to the affairs of his own state, in the political trans- 
actions of which he took a prominent part. 

In 1779, Dr. Bartlett was appointed chief justice of the court of 
common pleas, for the state of New Hampshire, and in 17S0, mus- 
ter-master of the troops then raising for three years and during the 
war. In 1782, on the resignation of Judge Thornton, he was ap- 
pointed a justice of the superior court, which office he held until he 
was made chief justice, in 1788. 

In the year 1788, the federal constitution, which had been framed 
by the delegates assembled at Philadelphia, was presented to the 
several states for their consideration. For this purpose, in the state 
of New Hampshire a convention of people was held, and the new 


constitution was acceded to, and approved by them on the twenty- 
first of June. Dr. Bartlctt was an active member of the conven- 
tion, and strenuously supported its adoption. In April, 1789, the 
old confederation expired, and the new form of government, partly 
federal and partly national, succeeded in its place, to the universal 
joy of all who desired the happiness of the United States. Dr. Bart- 
lett was chosen a senator to congress, in the same year, together 
with his old friend Mr. Langdon ; but the infirmities of age, being 
now in his sixtieth year, induced him to decline that office. 

In June, 1790, he was chosen president of New Hampshire, in 
which office he continued until June, 1793, when he was elected the 
first governor of the state. He discharged the duties of this high 
station with his usual promptitude and fidelity: he was a ruler in 
whom the wise placed confidence, and of whom even the captious 
could find nothing to complain. 

The advanced age of Governor Bartlett now required repose, and 
he closed, by the resignation of the chief magistracy, his public 
career, which, in its purity of principle and love of country, was 
not excelled even in what has been emphatically denominated " the 
age of men." On the twenty-ninth of January, 1794, he addressed 
the following letter to the legislature : — 

"Gentlemen of the legislature: After having served the public 
for a number of years, to the best of my abilities, in the various 
offices to which I have had the honour to be appointed, I think it 
proper, before your adjournment, to signify to you, and through you 
to my fellow citizens at large, that I now find myself so far ad- 
vanced in age, that it will be expedient for me at the close of the 
session, to retire from the cares and fatigues of public business to 
the repose of a private life, with a grateful sense of the repeated 
marks of trust and confidence that my fellow citizens have reposed 
in me, and with my best wishes for the future peace and prosperity 
of the state." 

The repose which he anticipated, so inestimable to a man, the 
better part of whose life had been consumed amid the toils and 
troubles of the revolution, and the dissensions which preceded it, 
was destined, in this world, to be of short duration. On the nine- 
teenth of May, 1795, this distinguished patriot was gathered to his 
fathers, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. The wife of Governor 
Bartlett was a lady of Kingston, who possessed the same family name. 
She was a woman of excellent character, and an ornament to society, 
and died in 1789, six years previous to the death of her husband. 


The stern patriotism and inflexible republicanism which adorned 
the character of Dr. Bartlett, have already been developed. His 
mind was quick and penetrating, his memory tenacious, his judgment 
sound and perspicacious. His natural temper was open, humane, 
and compassionate. In all his dealings he was scrupulously just, 
and faithful in the performance of all his engagements. These 
brilliant talents, combined with distinguished probity, recommended 
him early in life to the esteem and confidence of his fellow citizens. 
But few persons, by their own merit, and without the influence of 
family or party connexions, have, like him, risen from one degree 
of confidence to another; and fewer still have been the instances, 
in which a succession of honourable and important offices have been 
held by any man with less envy, or executed with more general 


William Whipple, the eldest son of William Whipple, was 
born at Kittery, Maine, in the year 1730. He was educated at one 
of the public schools in that town. The instruction he received was 
snch as was usually given to youths of respectable families, destined 
to make their fortunes by commercial pursuits, and though not of 
that general and extended kind which is now bestowed, certainly 
was not so limited or deficient as has been supposed. He displayed 
throughout his whole life the marks of early attention and a good 
elementary education. On leaving school he embarked immediately 
on board of a merchant vessel, the constant and customary mode 
of commencing a commercial life at that period, but not, as has 
been intimated, with the intention or view of adopting a seafaring 
life, strictly so to speak, as his future occupation. In this pursuit he 
made several voyages, and amassed some fortune; his intercourse 
appears to have been chiefly with the West Indies, and it has been 
said that he engaged in the slave trade; of this we have no direct 
evidence, but it is not improbable, as such a traffic was one of the 
most frequent in those times, among all commercial nations, that 
the vessels in which he embarked were occasionally engaged in it. 

In the year 1759, however, he abandoned the sea entirely, being 
then in the twenty-ninth year of his age, and entered into business 
in Portsmouth, with his brother, under the firm of William and 
Joseph Whipple. This connexion was discontinued about one or 
two years previous to the revolution. 

Mr. Whipple married his cousin, Catharine Moffat. His offspring 
was limited to one child, which died in its infancy. He resided in 
the family of his father-in-law from the time of his marriage until 
his death. 

At an early period of the contest, he took a decided part in favour 

of the colonies, in their opposition to the claims of Great Britain; 

and his townsmen, placing the highest confidence in his patriotism 

and integrity, frequently elected him to offices which required great 



jufHW.H. -How "Res of ■■ p !. L fl_a EsV 


firmness and moderation. In January, 1775, lie was chosen one of 
the representatives of the town of Portsmouth to the provincial 
congress, held at Exeter for the purpose of choosing delegates to 
the general congress, which was to meet in Philadelphia on the 
tenth of May following. 

When the disputes between the two countries were approaching 
to a crisis, the provincial committee of safety of New Hampshire 
recommended that a provincial congress should be formed, for the 
purpose of directing and managing the public affairs of the state 
during the term of six months. The delegates from the town of 
Portsmouth were five in number, among whom was Captain Whip- 
ple. He accordingly attended the meeting of the congress, which 
convened at Exeter in the beginning of May, 1775, and was elected 
by that body one of the provincial committee of safety, who were 
to regulate the affairs of government during the war. In the early 
part of the same year, he was also chosen one of the committee of 
safety for the town of Portsmouth. 

At the close of the year 1775, the people of New Hampshire 
assumed a form of government, consisting of a house of represen- 
tatives and a council of twelve, the president of which was the chief 
executive officer. Mr. Whipple was chosen one of the council, on 
the sixth of January, 1776, and on the twenty-third of the same 
month, a delegate to the general congress : he took his seat on the 
twenty-ninth of February following. He continued to be re-elected 
to that distinguished situation in the years 1777, 1778, and 1779, 
and applied himself with diligence and ability to the discharge of its 
duties, when the military services which he rendered during that 
period permitted him to be an acting member of the New Hamp- 
shire delegation. In the middle of September, 1779, he finally 
retired from congress, after having attended, without the least in- 
termission, at his post of duty, from the fifth of the preceding month 
of November. 

Whilst in congress, he was considered a very useful and active 
member, and discharged the duties of his office in a manner alike 
honourable to himself and satisfactory to his constituents. In the 
current and committed business of the house, he displayed equal 
perseverance, ability, and application. His early pursuits rendered 
him particularly useful as a member of the committees of marine 
and of commerce; and, as one of the superintendents of the com- 
missary's and quarter-master's departments, he laboured, with much 
assiduity, to correct the abuses which had prevailed, and to place 


those establishments upon sueh a footing as might best conduce to 
the public service. When the depreciation of the continental cur- 
rency became excessive, he strongly opposed new emissions of 
paper, as tending to the utter destruction of public confidence. 

Soon after Mr. Whipple's returnto New Hampshire, he was called 
on to exercise his patriotism in scenes and modes yet untried. He 
had buffeted the waves as a seaman; he had pursued the peaceful 
occupations of a merchant; and he had distinguished himself as a 
legislator and a statesman; but he was now called on to undergo 
the severer personal duties, and to gather the more conspicuous 
laurels of a soldier. The overwhelming force of Burgoyne having 
compelled the American troops to evacuate their strong post at 
Ticonderoga, universal alarm prevailed in the north. The com- 
mittee of the " New Hampshire Grants," which had now formed 
themselves into a separate state, wrote in the most pressing terms 
to the committee of safety at Exeter, for assistance. The assem- 
bly of New Hampshire was immediately convened, and adopted the 
most effectual and decisive measures for the defence of the country. 
They formed the whole militia of the state into two brigades, giving 
the command of the first to William Whipple, and of the second to 
General Stark. General Stark was immediately ordered to march, 
" to stop the progress of the enemy on our western frontiers," with 
one-fourth of his brigade, and one-fourth of three regiments belong- 
ing to the brigade of General Whipple. 

Burgoyne, presuming that no more effectual opposition would be 
made, flattered himself that he might advance without much annoy- 
ance. To the accomplishments and experience of his officers, was 
added a formidable train of artillery, with all the apparatus, stores, 
and equipments, which the nature of the service required. His 
army was principally composed of veteran corps of the best troops 
of Britain and Germany, and American loyalists furnished it with 
spies, scouts, and rangers: a numerous body of savages, in their 
own dress and with their own weapons, and characteristic ferocity, 
increased the terrors of its approach. Flushed by a confidence in 
his superior force, and deceived in his opinion of the number of 
friendly loyalists, the British general despatched Lieutenant-Colonel 
Baum from Fort Edward, with about fifteen hundred of his Ger 
man troops, and a body of Indians, to overrun the " Grants" as faj 
as the Connecticut river, for the purpose of collecting horses tc 
mount the dragoons, and cattle, both for labour and provisions. He 
was encountered at Bennington by the intrepid Stark, who carried 


the works which he had constructed by assault, and killed or cap- 
tured the greater part of his detachment ; a few only escaped into 
the woods, and saved themselves by flight. 

This victory gave a severe check to the hopes of the enemy, and 
revived the spirits of the people after a long depression. The 
courage of the militia increased with their reputation, and they 
found that neither British nor German regulars were invincible. 
Burgoyne was weakened and disheartened by the event, and be- 
ginning to perceive the danger of his situation, he now considered 
the men of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains, whom he 
had viewed with contempt, as dangerous enemies : in a letter, writ- 
ten about this time, he remarks to Lord Germaine, that " the New 
Hampshire Grants, till of late but little known, hang like a cloud 
on my left." 

The northern army was now reinforced by the militia of all the 
neighbouring states. Brigadier General Whipple marched with a 
great part of his brigade; and volunteers from all parts of New 
Hampshire hastened in great numbers to join the standard of General 
Gates. In the desperate battles of Stillwater and of Saratoga, the 
troops of New Hampshire gained a large share of the honour due 
to the American army. The consequence of these engagements 
was the surrender of General Burgoyne. When the British army 
capitulated, he was appointed, with Colonel Wilkinson, as the 
representative of General Gates, to meet two officers from General 
Burgoyne, for the purpose of propounding, discussing, and settling 
several subordinate articles and regulations springing from the pre- 
liminary proposals of the British general, and which required expla- 
nation and precision before the definitive treaty could be properly 
executed. By concert with Major Kingston, a tent was pitched 
between the advanced guards of the two armies, where they met 
Lieutenant-Colonel Sutherland, and Captain Craig of the forty- 
seventh regiment, on the afternoon of the sixteenth October, 1777. 
Having produced and exchanged credentials, they proceeded to dis- 
cuss the objects of their appointment, and in the evening signed the 
articles of capitulation. After the attainment of this grand object, 
General Whipple was selected as one of the officers, under whose 
command the British troops were conducted to their destined 
encampment on Winter-hill, near Boston. 

General Whipple was attended on this expedition by a valuable 
negro servant named Prince, whom he had imported from Africa 
many years before. On his way to the army, he told his servant 
16 L 


that if they should be called into action, he expected that he would 
behave like a man of courage, and fight bravely for his country. 
Prince replied, "Sir, I have no inducement to fight; but if I had 
my liberty, I would endeavour to defend it to the last drop of my 
blood." The general manumitted him upon the spot. This anec- 
dote is related by the Marquis de Chasleleux in his " Travels in 
North America," but is erroneously applied to Governor Langdon, 
who was in company with General Whipple at the time, but had no 
negro servant with him. 

While he was thus absent from congress on more active duties, 
he kept up a constant correspondence with his friends in Philadel- 
phia, so as to be informed of their views and wishes, and to co- 
operate as much as possible with them. 

Nor was the expedition against Burgoynethe only military affair 
that Mr. Whipple was engaged in during his absence from congress. 
It may be recollected that in the latter part of this summer, when 
Count d'Estaing had abandoned his project of attacking the British 
fleet at New York, a plan was formed for his co-operation with 
General Sullivan in retaking Rhode Island from the British. To 
aid in this measure the militia of the adjoining states were called 
out, and the detachment of New Hampshire was placed under the 
command of General Whipple. The scheme, owing to some acci- 
dent, or the neglect of a proper understanding, proved unsuccessful, 
and General Sullivan was only able to save his army by a judicious 
retreat. During this brief campaign it is recorded, that one morning 
whilst a number of officers were at breakfast in the general's 
quarters, at the position on the north end of the island, the British 
advanced to an eminence about three quarters of a mile distant ; 
perceiving horses and a guard before the door, they discharged a 
field piece, which killed one of the horses, and the ball, penetrating 
(he side of the house, passed under the table where the officers 
were sitting, and shattered the leg of the brigade major of General 
Whipple in such a manner that amputation was necessary. — The 
design for which the militia were called out having thus proved 
abortive, many of them were discharged, and General Whipple 
with those under his command returned to New Hampshire. Ac- 
cording to the pay-roll for the general and staff of his division of 
volunteers, it appears that he took the command on the 26th of July, 
and returned on the 5th of September, 1778. 

Having closed his military career, he returned to Philadelphia 
without delay, and resumed his duties in congress. 


The high consideration in which his services were held by con- 
gress did not cease to accompany Mr. Whipple in his retirement. 
In the beginning of the year 1780 lie was appointed a commissioner 
of the board of admiralty, which office he declined accepting, owing 
to the situation of his private affairs. In a letter of the seventh of 
February, 1780, he thus expresses himself to Nathaniel Peabody, 
in relation to this appointment. " I am confident that your wishes, 
that I would accept the office you mentioned, are founded on the 
best principles, viz. the public good ; though I am not altogether so 
clear that you would not be mistaken. No doubt some other per- 
son may be found that will fill the place much better; at least this 
is my sincere wish, for I have nothing more at heart than our navy. 
The official account of my appointment did not reach me till some 
time in January, although the letter was dated the 27th November; 
this may account for my answer's being so long delayed: indeed, I 
took a fortnight to consider the matter before I gave my answer, 
and I assure you considered it very maturely; and, in casting up 
the account, I found the balance so greatly against it, that I was 
obliged, on the principle of self-preservation, to decline." 

In the year 1780, immediately after his retirement from congress, 
he was elected a member of the legislature, to which office he was 
repeatedly chosen, «nd continued to enjoy the confidence and appro- 
bation of his fellow citizens. 

In May, 1782, the superintendent of finance, confiding in " his in- 
clination and abilities to promote the interests of the United States," 
appointed Mr. Whipple receiver for the state of New Hampshire, a 
commission at once arduous and unpopular. It was invariably the 
rule of Mr. Morris to grant this appointment only to men of tried 
integrity and invincible patriotism. The duty of the office was not 
only to receive and transmit the sums collected in the state, but to 
expedite that collection by all proper means, and incessantly to urge 
the local authorities to comply with the requisitions of congress. 
The station now held by Mr. Whipple was, therefore, extremely 
irksome, not only from the urgent and necessary representations to 
the legislature and the people, but from the total want of success 
which attended his most persevering efforts. So shameful was the 
sluggishness of the state in the payment of revenue, that it was 
necessary, six months after the first instalment became due, to 
remit money to New Hampshire for the purpose of finishing a single 
ship on the stocks at Portsmouth. The discouraging result of his 
exertions induced him, on the third of August, 1783, to repeat more 


strongly his desire to abandon an office, the powers and effects of 
which were so little desirable. But Mr. Morris was not disposed 
to lose the services of a faithful and able agent, without an effort to 
shake his determination. "If," he remarked in a letter of the 
nineteenth August, 1783, "a number of competitors would appear, 
I am well persuaded that you would not have accepted. Your 
original motives must continue to exist, until the situation of our 
affairs shall mend. Persist, then, I pray you, in those efforts which 
you promised me, and be persuaded that the consciousness of having 
made them will be the best reward. If this is not the case, I have 
mistaken your character." — Let it be remembered that an eulogium 
from Robert Morris should be equally venerated as though it had 
fallen from the lips of Washington: the military glory of the hero 
can never be separated from the gigantic talents of the financier. — 
It was not until the month of January, 1784, that Mr. Whipple was 
enabled to make his first remittance to the treasury: this, at a 
time when the public necessities were most urgent, consisted of 
three thousand dollars! At length, he was resolved no longer to 
submit to the series of vexations which he had endured for more 
than two years, and which the infirm state of his health rendered 
still more oppressive. On the twenty-second of July, 1784, he 
imparted his final determination to Mr. Morris, and retired from 
the office of receiver in the course of the following month. 

A dispute had long subsisted between the states of Pennsylvania 
and Connecticut, relative to certain lands at Wyoming, which, from 
the hostile spirit in which it was conducted, demanded the serious 
consideration of congress. On the sixteenth of July, 1782, it was 
resolved that the agents of those states should appoint commissioners 
or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the 
matter in question, agreeably to the ninth article of the confedera- 
tion. On the eighth of August, this requisition was complied with, 
and Mr. Whipple was included in the commission subsequently 
granted by congress. The court of commissioners met at Trenton, 
in New Jersey, on the twelfth of November, but did not constitute 
a quorum until the eighteenth ; when William Whipple, Welcome 
Arnold, David Brearly, William Churchill Houston, and Cyrus 
Griffin, Esqrs. having taken the necessary oath, opened the court 
in lorm. Mr. Whipple was appointed president, and throughout 
the course of this important and delicate trial, which terminated on 
the thirtieth of December, displayed great ability, impartiality, and 
moderation. Their final sentence and decree was returned to con- 


gress on the third of January, stating it as the unanimous opinion 
of the court, that the state of Connecticut has no right to the lands 
in controversy. 

About this period General Whipple began to be afflicted with 
strictures in the breast, which, at times, proved extremely painful. 
A little exercise would induce violent palpitations of the heart, 
which were very distressing. Riding on horseback often produced 
this effect, and frequently caused him to faint and fall from his 
horse. This complaint prevented him from engaging in the more 
active scenes of life, and compelled him to decline any further 
military command. 

On the twentieth of June, 1782, he was appointed a judge of the 
superior court of judicature; it being usual, at that period, to fill 
the office with persons who had not been educated in the profession 
of the law. The bench consisted of four judges, and the chief 
justice only was taken from the bar. A discerning mind, sound 
judgment, and integrity, were deemed adequate, but essential quali- 
fications; and these virtues were possessed by General Whipple. 
In an attempt to sum up the arguments of the counsel, and state a 
cause to the jury, the effort brought on the palpitation of his heart, 
in so violent a degree, that he proceeded with great difficulty; and 
this was the only instance of his making a formal speech, whilst 
seated upon the bench. He continued, however, to ride the circuits 
with the court for the term of two or three years, and assisted his 
brethren with his opinion in the decision of the causes before them. 

On the twenty-fifth of December, 1784, he was appointed a jus- 
tice of the peace and quorum throughout the state, under the new 
constitution. In the fall of 1785, the rapid increase of his disorder 
compelled him to leave the court, and return home before the cir- 
cuit was completed. He was immediately confined to his chamber, 
and the nature of his complaint preventing him from lying in bed, 
his only refreshment from sleep was received whilst sitting in a 
chair. ■ The nature and violence of his disorder being beyond the 
reach of medical art, he expired on the twenty-eighth day of No- 
vember, 1785, in the fifty-fifth year of his age. 

His body was opened, by his special direction, and it was found 
that an ossification had taken place in his heart ; the valves being 
united to the aorta, a small aperture, about the size of a large 
knitting needle, remained open, through which all the blood flowed 
in its circulation; and when any sudden motion gave it new im- 
pulse, it produced the palpitation and faintness to which he was lia- 


ble. His body was deposited in the North burying ground in Ports- 

Mr. Whipple was possessed of a strong mind, and quick discern- 
ment : he was easy in his manners, courteous in his deportment, 
correct in his habits, and constant in his friendships. He enjoyed 
through life a great share of the public confidence, and although his 
early education was limited, his natural good sense, and accurate 
observations, enabled him to discharge the duties of the several 
offices with which he was intrusted, with credit to himself and bene- 
fit to the public. In the various scenes of life in which he engaged, 
he constantly manifested an honest and persevering spirit of emu- 
lation, which conducted. him with rapid strides to distinction. As a 
sailor, he speedily attained the highest rank in the profession; as a 
merchant, he was circumspect and industrious; as a congressman, 
he was firm and fearless ; as a legislator, he was honest and able ; 
as a commander, he was cool and courageous; as a judge, he was 
dignified and impartial; and as a member of many subordinate 
public offices, he was alert and persevering. Few men rose more 
rapidly and worthily in the scale of society, or bore their new 
honours with more modesty and propriety. 

L>"'° F M,TT " EW ™ 0R "T0 N 

■ atism d Independence, Dra.-ry H" a 


Matthew Thornton was a native of Ireland, where he was 
horn about the year 1714. Two or three years subsequent to his 
birth, his father, James Thornton, emigrated to this country with 
his family, and resided at Wiscasset, in Maine. In a few years he 
removed to the town of Worcester, in the province of Massachusetts, 
where he conferred the benefits of an academical education upon 
his son, whom he designed for one of the learned professions. He 
accordingly commenced, and prosecuted his medical studies under 
the superintendence of Dr. Grout, of Leicester, in Massachusetts, 
and after the usual preparatory course, embarked in the practice of 
medicine in Londonderry. New Hampshire. He rapidly acquired 
extensive and well-merited reputation as a physician and surgeon, 
and in the course of several years' successful practice, became com- 
paratively wealthy. 

In the beginning of the year 1745, an expedition against Cape 
Breton was planned by Governor Shirley, and submitted to the legis- 
lature of Massachusetts, in which it was adopted by a majority of 
one. The co-operation of New Hampshire being required, the 
legislature of that province evinced much greater enthusiasm and 
alacrity, and at once assented to the measure. A corps of five hun- 
dred men was raised immediately, prudent officers were selected, 
and the whole equipped in the best manner that the resources of 
the province would permit. Dr. Thornton was selected to accom- 
pany it as a surgeon, and in the course of the expedition gave evi- 
dence of those superior talents which afterwards brought him for- 
wards into public notice in a still more distinguished manner. 

Dr. Thornton, of course, participated in the perils of this fortunate 
expedition, and it is a creditable evidence of the professional abili- 
ties and attention of the medical department, that, from among a 
division of five hundred men, only six individuals died from sickness, 
previous to the surrender of the town, notwithstanding they had 
been subjected to excessive toil and constant exposure 



At the commencement of the revolutionary war, Dr. Thornton 
still resided in Londonderry, and held the rank of a colonel in the 
militia. He was also commissioned a justice of the peace, under 
the administration of Benning Wentworth. 

In 1775, when the British government was dissolved, and a pro- 
vincial convention formed for temporary purposes, Matthew Thorn- 
ton was appointed the first president. 

Although the co-operation of the inhabitants of Hew Hampshire 
with the other colonies, in their opposition to the stamp tax, did 
not appear very cordial, from their omission to send delegates to 
the congress of 1765, yet the state assembly, at their next meeting, 
adopted the same measures, and forwarded petitions to England, 
similar to those which had been prepared by congress. The pro- 
vinces of New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia, were un- 
represented; but the legislatures of the two last were not in session, 
and the former alone, although joining in the general opposition, 
declined sending delegates to the convention. This defalcation, so 
destructive to the unanimity which ought to have characterized the 
proceedings of the oppressed colonists, probably arose from the 
exercise of the same influence which created a reluctance on the 
part of the merchants of Portsmouth to adopt the non-importation 
•agreement, in 1769; but the popularity and power of Governor 
Wentworth were unable to cope with the spirit of patriotism, 
strengthened by the conviction that their whole intercourse with the 
other colonics would be suspended, unless they followed the general 
example, by forming an association similar to those which had been 
elsewhere adopted ; this was accordingly effected in 1770. But not- 
withstanding these appearances, the popular spirit of New Hamp- 
shire was decidedly, but temperately displayed upon all proper 
occasions, in opposition to the odious tax which had been imposed. 

The events which succeeded, and the gradually increasing oppo- 
sition of the people, until the overthrow of the royal government in 
the province, have been already mentioned and need not be here 
repeated. Dr. Thornton took an active and zealous part in all of 
them, and was looked up to by the whole community as one of the 
firmest of the patriots, and one of the most prudent leaders. On 
the flight of Governor Wentworth, he arose amid a perilous and 
appalling scene, to the presidency of the provincial convention. On 
the second of June, 1775, a few days previous to the flight of the 
British governor, an address to the inhabitants of the state was pre- 
pared by the convention, to which the name of Matthew Thornton 


is affixed, and which, as a rare document, and strongly illustrative 
of the temper and firmness of that assembly, is worthy of preserva- 
tion. It bears date in the provincial congress at Exeter, on the 
second of June, 1775, and is addressed to the inhabitants of the 

On the third of November, 1775, congress took into considera- 
tion the report of the committee to which these instructions had 
been referred, and recommended to the provincial convention to call 
a full and free representation of the people, and that the represen- 
tatives so called should establish such a form of government, as, in 
their judgment, would best promote the happiness of the people, 
and most effectually secure peace and good order in the province, 
during the continuance of the existing dispute between Great Bri- 
tain and her colonies. The members of the convention were prin- 
cipally men who knew nothing of the theory of government, and had 
never before been concerned in public affairs ; but in the short term 
of six months, they were convinced by experience, that it was 
improper for a legislative assembly to consist of one house only. 
Having accordingly framed a temporary form of government, they 
assumed the name and authority of a house of representatives, and 
elected twelve persons to constitute a distinct branch of the legisla- 
ture, under the title of a council. The office of president of the con- 
vention, held by Dr. Thornton, was accordingly annulled. Meshech 
Weare, an old and faithful servant of the public, was appointed 
president of the council. The non-election of Dr. Thornton, who 
then held the highest office in the civil service, did not certainly 
proceed from a want of confidence in his abilities and patriotism, 
as his subsequent speedy nomination to congress amply attests, but 
rather from the superior claims of Mr. Weare. On the fifth of 
January, 1776, he was elected speaker of the general assembly. 

On the twelfth of September, 1776, he was appointed, by the 
house of representatives, a delegate to represent the state of New 
Hampshire in congress, during the term of one year. He did not 
take his seat in that illustrious body until the fourth of November 
following, being four months after the passage of the Declaration 
of Independence; but he immediately acceded to it, and was per- 
mitted to place his signature on the engrossed copy of the instru- 
ment, among those of the fifty-six worthies, who have immortal- 
ized their names by that memorable and magnanimous act. The 
case of Dr. Thornton is not singular : neither Benjamin Rush, George 
Clymer, James Wilson, George Ross, nor George Taylor, were pre- 


sent in congress, on the fourth of July, 1776, not having been chosen 
delegates by the legislature of Pennsylvania until the twentieth da) 
of that month. 

On the tenth of January, 1776, Dr. Thornton was appointed a 
judge of the superior court of New Hampshire, which office he 
retained until the year 1782. He had previously received the ap- 
pointment of chief justice of the court of common pleas. On the 
twenty-fourth of December, 1776, he was again elected, together 
with William Whipple and Josiah Bartlett, to represent the state 
of New Hampshire in congress, for the term of one year, from the 
twenty-third of January, 1777. At the expiration of that time, he 
concluded his congressional labours, which had been performed with 
undeviating assiduity, and a strict regard to the prosperity and 
honour of the country. 

Towards the close of the year 1779, he removed to Exeter, and, 
in 1780, purchased a farm, pleasantly situated on the banks of the 
Merrimack, to which he retired a short time after. In this delight- 
ful abode, he connected the business of agriculture with his other 
diversified occupations. Being now far advanced in life, he relin- 
quished, in a great measure, the practice of medicine; but when- 
ever his professional services were particularly required, they were 
cheerfully granted, and at all times highly appreciated. He inter- 
ested himself in the municipal affairs of the town, and was, for seve- 
ral years, chosen one of the select-men. During one or two years, 
he served as a member of the general court; and was elected to 
the office of senator in the state legislature. On the twenty-fifth 
January, 1784, he was appointed a justice of the peace and quorum 
throughout the state under the new constitution, which office he 
continued to hold until the time of his death. In 1785, he appears 
to have terminated his political career, in the seventy-first year of 
his age, as a member of the council, under the presidency of John 

The deep interest entertained by Dr. Thornton in relation to the 
welfare of the community, even when he had, in a great measure, 
retired from active political life, is apparent in his exertions to ter- 
minate the unhappy disputes between the states of New Hampshire 
and Vermont. The latter, not then an acknowleged state of the 
Union, had extended its jurisdiction over a number of towns within 
the limits of the former, and officers of justice, appointed by the 
authority of both states, were exercising jurisdiction in the same 
places, and over the same persons. Party rage, strong contentions. 


and deep resentments, were produced by these clashing interests ; 
and at the period when the letter of Dr. Thornton was written, a 
serious affray in the town of Chesterfield, — during which the respec- 
tive sheriffs of the two states were at different periods committed to 
prison by the stronger party, and orders were on each side issued 
to oppose force by force, — threatened to lead to open acts of hostility, 
-Dr. Thornton addressed an earnest and eloquent letter to Pre- 
sident Weare, urging the necessity of calmness and forbearance, 
and no doubt greatly contributed to the amicable adjustment of the 

In private life, the social feelings and attachments of Dr. Thornton 
attracted the general esteem of those by whom he was surrounded: 
the young and the old were alike participators in the agreeable ver- 
satility of his powers, and the inexhaustible stock of information 
which a long and industrious life had accumulated. His memory 
was well stored with a large fund of entertaining and instructive 
anecdotes, which he could apply to any incident, or subject of con- 
versation. Hence his society was universally courted, and few ever 
left his presence without being both instructed and amused. Nor 
were his instructions speedily forgotten ; for they were invariably 
interwoven with some anecdote of the character or event which he 
wished to describe, and illustrative of the lesson which he desired 
to impart; these pleasant intertextures were so applicable, that the 
recollection of them could not fail to recall to the memory the cir- 
cumstances with which they were connected. In his moments of 
mental recreation, he exhibited the very essence of hilarity and 
humour, in the infinite variety of his stories, and his mode of nar- 
rative, which was particularly inviting. In this rational pastime, 
he never descended to vulgarity, but afforded general amusement, 
while he instructed the minds, and improved the morals, of his 
hearers : like the great Franklin, whom he, in many traits of 
character, resembled, he illustrated his sentiments by fable; in 
which he displayed a peculiar and original talent. His inventive 
powers in exercises of this nature were quick and judiciously 
directed: he frequently commenced a fictitious narrative for the 
amusement of his auditors, and, like an Eastern story-teller, con- 
tinued it for the space of an hour, supported solely by instantaneous 
invention. His posture, and manner of narrating, were as peculiar 
as the faculty itself: when he placed his elbows upon his knees, 
with his hands supporting his head, it was the signal for the ereclis 
aiiribus of the assembly. Their attention became instantly arrested 


and irresistibly fixed upon the narrative ; the curious incidents of 
which were evolved in the most masterly manner. Commencing 
with a slow articulation, and a solemn countenance, he gradually 
proceeded in his tale, casting, at intervals, his black and piercing 
eyes upon the countenance of his hearers, to detect the emotions 
excited in their breasts, and pausing to observe its full effects. His 
ingenuity in this accomplishment was astonishing, and he never 
failed to interest the feelings, and excite admiration. 

His house was at all times open to those who were houseless, 
and his table was frequently surrounded by individuals, from whom 
gratitude alone could be anticipated in return for his kindness and 
hospitality. Nevertheless it would be unreasonable to suppose that 
all the high qualifications possessed by Dr. Thornton, were wholly 
free from alloy — for he was human. It is asserted that the ami 
sacra fames, in some degree, detracted from the dignity of the 
character which he generally sustained; but this accusation may 
have sprung from the observations of those who did not properly 
distinguish economy from avarice. He was never known to be 
unjust, although he rigidly enforced his rights, without reference to 
the smallness of the amount : hence he was considered severe in his 
pecuniary claims. If he was strict in obtaining that which was 
due to him, he was scrupulously exact in liquidating his obligations 
to others. 

Another trait in his character, which frequently excited unpleasant, 
but momentary feelings, was his powers of satire. Although no 
man more patiently endured a cutting sarcasm, but few were inflicted 
on Dr. Thornton without a prompt and keen retaliation. In fact 
he was fond of pleasant jests, and was even immoderately pleased 
at a pungent pun, or a lively repartee. Many diverting anecdotes 
of this kind are preserved by his surviving companions. 

As a neighbour he was universally loved, as a citizen respected, 
and as a physician, he gained the confidence of the people by his 
skill and punctuality. He cherished with fondness the remembrance 
of those individuals of merit with whom he had formed an acquaint- 
ance during the chequered scenes of his life, and endeavoured to 
preserve undiminished their respect and approbation. In the eve- 
ning of life, after his professional and political usefulness was almost 
exhausted, he was in the habit of visiting his old friends in London- 
derry, the once happy scene of his youthful exertions. In these 
interviews, he was feelingly affectionate ; — grasping the hand with 
a real sensibility of the heart, in the recollection of the joys of by- 


gone days. The reiteration of this social formality was a renewed 
pledge of his kindness and affection: his recollection of tiic children 
in the neighbourhood was remarkably acute, and, without, invidious 
distinctions, he was a particular favourite among the children of all 
his acquaintances; — a foible perhaps incident to the character of a 
family physician. During these visits, he never alighted from his 
chaise, owing to the infirmities of age ; but when the arrival of the 
judge was announced, the whole family was laid under a willing 
contribution, and old and young alike flocked out to bid him welcome. 

His own children, who were absent from home, participated 
largely in his warmest affections: he visited them annually, and 
expended some time in their society. Their love and veneration 
for him, and unceasing solicitude for his welfare, amply repaid his 
paternal anxiety, and were a soothing consolation to his declining 
years. He was greatly recreated by these excursions, and never 
returned from them without apparent satisfaction. 

Dr. Thornton was, indeed, a man, venerable for his age and skill 
in his profession, and for the several important and honourable offices 
which he had sustained; — noted for the knowledge which he had 
acquired, and his quick penetration into matters of abstruse specu- 
lation. His virtues were a model for imitation, and while memory 
does her office, will be held in grateful recollection. His character 
as a Christian, a father, a husband, and a friend, was bright and 
unblemished: and if he had any of those failings which are insepa- 
rable from humanity, they have long since been forgotten. 

On the great question which was decided in favour of our national 
independence, he was invariably steadfast, and at all times evinced 
his readiness to support, with his property and life, the declaration 
to which he had publicly subscribed. His political character may 
be best estimated by the fact, that he enjoyed the confidence, and 
was the unshaken disciple, of Washington. 

In relation to the religious sentiments and opinions of Dr. Thorn- 
ton, it is not ascertained that he ranked himself among any of the 
established sects of Christians. It is, however, certain, that no man 
was more deeply impressed with a belief in the existence and 
bounties of an over-ruling Providence, which he strongly manifested 
by a practical application of the best and wisest injunctions of the 
Christian religion: a believer in the divine mission of our Saviour, 
he implicitly followed the great principles of his doctrine, so far as 
human frailty would permit. Exemplary for his regard to the pub- 
lic institutions of religion, and for his constancy in attending public 


worship, he trod the courts of the house of God with steps tottering 
with age and infirmity. 

When he had passed the eightieth year of his age, he was attacked 
with the hooping-cough, which proved extremely distressing. But, 
notwithstanding the violence of the spasms, which nearly deprived 
his feeble frame of breath and pulsation, he continued his practice 
of visiting, and fully retained his natural pleasantry and humour 
For many years previous to his death, a slight affection of the palsy 
had impaired his voice, which rendered it difficult for him, at certain 
seasons, to express himself intelligibly: but even this infirmity, in 
such a man as Dr. Thornton, served to enhance the veneration in 
which he was held. The solemn enunciation of his voice attracted 
fresh attention, and increased that respect and awe which old age 
is wont to inspire. 

He died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, while on a visit to his 
daughters, on the twenty-fourth day of June, 1803, in the eighty- 
ninth year of his age : his remains were conveyed to New Hamp- 
shire, and interred on the succeeding sabbath, within a short distance 
of Thornton's ferry, on the Merrimack river. His surviving children 
consisted of two sons and two daughters. 

Dr. Thornton was a man of large stature, exceeding six feet in 
height, and his form was symmetrically proportioned : his complexion 
was dark, and his eye black and penetrating. His countenance 
was invincibly grave, like that of Cassius, who read much, and 
never smiled; and this trait is the more remarkable, as he was dis- 
tinguished for his good-humoured hilarity. In his deportment, he 
was dignified and commanding, without austerity or hauteur. 

The grave of this eminent man is covered hy a white marble slab, 
upon which are inscribed his name and age, with the brief but noble 
epitaph—" AN HONEST MAN." 



Stephen Hopkins was born in that part of the then town of 
Providence, Rhode Island, which now forms the town of Scituate, 
on the seventh of March, 1707. Although the remembrance and 
knowledge of the youthful days of Mr. Hopkins are in a great mea- 
sure lost, yet it appears on record, as an evidence of the regularity 
of his conduct at that period, and the confidence which it excited, 
that, when only nineteen years of age, his father gave him a deed of 
gift for seventy acres of land, and his grandfather bestowed on "his 
loving grandson," an additional tract of ninety acres. — He received 
nothing more than a plain country education, by which he acquired 
an excellent knowledge of penmanship, and became conversant in 
the practical branches of the mathematics, particularly surveying. 

Being the son of a farmer, he continued the occupation of his 
father, after the death of the latter, and in 1731, increased his estate 
in Scituate, by the purchase of adjoining lands. He continued this 
mode of life until his removal to Providence, in 1742, when he sold 
his farm, and built a mansion in that town, in which he continued 
to reside until his death. 

In March, 1732, Mr. Hopkins made his first appearance in the 
public service, in the humble station of town-clerk of Scituate, from 
which he rose, through almost every gradation of office, to the high- 
est dignity of the state. He continued to hold the situation of town- 
clerk, and of president of the town-council, to which he was chosen 
in March, 1735, till the twenty-fourth of December, 1741, when he 
resigned in consequence of his intended removal from the town. 
About this time, he was also clerk of the court, and clerk to the 
proprietors of the county. In June, 1732, he was elected a repre- 
sentative to the general assembly from Scituate, and continued to 
discharge the duties of that appointment, with fidelity and ability, 
until the year 1738. In May, 1736, he was appointed a justice of 
the peace, and one of the justices of the court of common pleas. In 
May, 1739, he was appointed chief justice of that court. 



He was extensively employed, till an advanced age, in the busi- 
ness of surveying lands. In 1737, he revised the streets, and pro- 
jected a map of Scituate, for the proprietors ; and performed the 
same duty in Providence, after he had established his residence in 
that town. In 1740, he was chosen surveyor by the proprietors of 
land in the county of Providence, to make returns, and an index- 
book, of all the lands laid out west of the seven-mile line: the com- 
pletion of these returns was attended with great labour, and they 
continue to this day to be highly useful. The nicety of his calcula- 
tions, and perfect knowledge of the business, is attested by a vene- 
rable living witness, who, about the year 1769, accompanied him in 
the survey of a tract of land in Scituate. Having passed through 
a thick shrubby plain, Mr. Hopkins found that his watch, which cost 
twenty-five guineas in London, was missing. Supposing that the 
chain had become entangled in the bushes, and the watch thereby 
pulled from his pocket, he set the course back, and found it hang- 
ing on a bush. 

In 1741, he was again a representative of Scituate in the general 
assembly, of which he was chosen speaker. In 1742, he sold his 
farm and removed to Providence, where he commenced business as 
a merchant; building, owning, and fitting out vessels. In the same 
year, the general confidence reposed in his abilities and integrity, 
was evinced by his appointment to represent the town into which he 
had just removed his residence, in the assembly, of which he was 
again elected speaker. After an interval of one year, he was again 
chosen a representative in 1744, as well as speaker of the house ; 
and in the same year, was appointed a justice in Providence. In 
1746, being re-elected to the same responsible stations, he continued 
faithfully to discharge their duties, during the years 1747, 1748, and 
1749. In May, 1751, he was, for the fourteenth time, a represen- 
tative in the assembly, and in the same year, received the appoint- 
ment of chief justice of the superior court, which he continued to 
hold until the year 1754. 

In the year 1754, a convention of delegates from the different 
colonics was appointed to meet at Albany, to hold a conference with 
the Five Nations of Indians, on the subject of French encroach- 
ment, and to secure their friendship in the approaching war. Avail- 
ing themselves of this opportunity, the governors of the different 
colonies, at the recommendation of Governor Shirley, of Massa- 
chusetts, advised their commissioners, in general terms, of a pro- 
Dosed plan of union; but no direct authority for concerting any sys- 


tcm, was given by any other of the colonics than Massachusetts and 
Maryland. The meeting of the delegates was held on the eleventh 
of July, and after the business with the Indians had been concluded, 
a committee, consisting of one member from each colony, was direct- 
ed to prepare and report a plan of union. The essential principles 
of the plan reported, and afterwards agreed to on the fourth of 
July, were objected to, both in America and England ; and it con- 
sequently did not prevail. — Mr. Hopkins was a commissioner to this 
congress from Rhode Island. 

In the month of May, 1756, he was elevated to the office of chief 
magistrate of the colony of Rhode Island, and continued to occupy 
this dignified station, at intervals, for seven years. In 1758, he was 
again elected, and served thereafter with firmness and justice, dur- 
ing the years 1759, 1760, 1761, 1763, 1764, and 1767. His con- 
duct as governor was dignified and decided. Keeping a single eye 
towards the prosperity of his native country, he did not hesitate to 
urge and support whatever measures appeared best calculated to 
promote the colonial interest, nor to resist every encroachment on 
the just rights and liberties of his constituents. During a long 
period, he was engaged in a party contest, grounded upon no real 
principle discoverable to a modern eye, with Governor Ward, in 
which he was annually alternately successful, or defeated. But if 
Mr. Hopkins, from a conscientious belief in the propriety of his poli- 
tical views, was opposed to particular men and measures, he was 
neither so bigoted nor ambitious, as to set forth his own particular 
opinions, or personal aggrandizement, in array against the peace 
and prosperity of the colony ; and the real nobility of soul and cha- 
racter, with which, like the illustrious Roman, he voluntarily resigned 
the reins of government, and retired (for a season) to private life, in 
order to appease the passions of party, constitute one of the bright- 
est incidents of his life. — In the year 1767, while Mr. Hopkins filled 
the executive chair, the politics of the colony were carried to great 
excess. Impressed with the danger to be apprehended from these 
growing animosities, and anxious to conciliate and unite the con- 
tending factions which had so long distracted the province, he nobly 
resolved to retire from the office of governor, rather than be, in any 
way, instrumental in fostering the spirit which then prevailed. In 
a message, therefore, to the general assembly, dated the twenty- 
eighth of October, 1767, he included the following remarks: — 
•' Thirdly, I must mention the different strifes and party disputes, 
that have so long divided and harassed this unhappy colony, and 
18 m 2 


desire you to discover some method to heal our breaches, prevent 
animosities, and introduce peace and harmony, and consequently 
happiness, among the people. In order to this, I am willing and 
ready, and freely offer, to resign and give up the office (of governor) 
that I sustain, and do every, and any other thing, in my power, that 
may, in any way, contribute towards so desirable an end, as the 
peace of the colony. Neither do I believe this to be a business un- 
becoming the dignity of the general assembly ; but trust that, by 
their care and wisdom, assisted by the sober and well-meaning part 
of the people, peace may be restored to the colony, authority to its 
magistrates, and harmony among its inhabitants." — Nor was his 
pen otherwise idle in support of so desirable a consummation. The 
essays which he composed on the subject, display considerable merit, 
united with decision, and unsparing, but dignified severity. " When 
we draw aside," he remarked, "the veil of words and professions, 
when we attend to what is done, not to what is said, we shall find, 
in the present age of our country, that liberty is only a cant term 
of faction, and freedom of speaking and acting, used only to serve 
private interest and a party. — What else can be the cause of our 
unhappy disputes? What other reason for the continual struggle 
for superiority and office? What other motive for the flood of 
calumny and reproach cast on each other? — Behold! the leading 
men meeting in cabals, and from thence dispersing themselves to 
the several quarters to delude and deceive the people. The people 
are called together in tippling-houses, their business neglected, their 
morals corrupted, themselves deluded; some promised offices for 
which they are unfit ; and those who have disputes with their neigh- 
bours are assured of their causes, whether they be right or wrong : 
those with whom these arts will not prevail, are tempted with the 
wages of unrighteousness, and offered a bribe to falsify their oath, 
and betray their country. By these scandalous practices, elec- 
tions are carried, and officers appointed. — It makes little difference 
whether the officer who, in this manner, obtains his place, is other- 
wise a good man, or not; for, put in by a party, he must do what 
they order, without being permitted to examine the rectitude even 
of his own actions. The unhappy malady runs through the whole 
constitution : men in authority are not revered, and, therefore, lose 
all power to do good; the courts of judicature catch the infection, 
and the sacred balance of justice does not hang even; all complain 
of the present administration, all cry out the times are hard, and 
all wish they might grow better; but complaints are weak, wishes 


are idle, cries are vain, even prayers will be ineffectual, if we do 
not universally amend : — but no friend, no patriot, will step in, and 
save the commonwealth from ruin. Will no good Samaritan come 
by, and pour in the wine and oil into the bleeding wounds of his 
country?" — In the person of Stephen Hopkins, were united the 
friend, the patriot, and the good Samaritan. Urging, and obtain- 
ing, the co-operation of his friends, in the great task of effecting an 
union of clashing sentiments and interests, his perseverance and 
industry at length prevailed, after great labour and difficulty, and 
the two parties united in choosing a third person, not particularly 
attached to cither of them, as governor of the colony: this event, 
together with a fair division of offices, was followed by peace and 
harmony, and the spirit of party in a great measure subsided. 

Governor Hopkins was, whether right or wrong, the founder of 
that measure so fiercely reprobated and resisted by the British min- 
istry; — furnishing the French and Spanish colonies with provisions 
and supplies, during war; and, for that purpose, he was accustomed 
to grant licenses to the vessels of Rhode Island. — A trade had been, 
for a long time, carried on between the British and Spanish colonies 
in America, to the great advantage of both, but particularly of the 
former. This trade did not clash with the spirit of any act of par- 
liament made for the regulation of the British plantation trade. 
Besides this trade carried on between the British American colonies 
in general, there had, also, for a long time, subsisted one, equally 
extensive, between the British North American colonies in particu- 
lar, and the French West India ones, to the great benefit of both, 
as it consisted of such goods, as must otherwise have remained a 
drug, if not an encumbrance, upon the hands of the possessors; so 
that it united, in the strictest sense, all those benefits which liberal 
minds include in the idea of a well-regulated commerce, as tending, 
in the highest degree, to the mutual welfare of those who carry it 
on. The mother country enjoyed a sufficient share of the benefits 
derived from this trade, to wink at it, although it was not strictly 
according to law; and it was permitted to be carried on, for a long 
time, even after hostilities had commenced between Great Britain 
and France directly, by means of flags of truce, and, in a circuitous 
manner, through the Dutch and Danish Islands. At length, the vast 
advantages which the French received from it above what the Bri- 
tish could expect, in consequence of all their West India Islands 
being, in a great measure, blockaded, determined the government 
to put a ston to it. — The correspondence of Governor Hopkins with 


Mr. Pitt, on this occasion, exhibited uncommon marks of a bold and 
independent spirit; and the answers of the minister were character- 
istic of his usual firmness and sagacity. 

When the difficulties between the colonies and Great Britain be- 
gan to grow more certain and alarming, Governor Hopkins evinced 
the same determined zeal for the rights and prosperity of the for- 
mer, and took an early, active, and decided part in their favour. In 
1765, he wrote a sensible pamphlet, containing about twenty-four 
pages, quarto, in support of the rights and claims of the colonies, and 
entitled, " The Rights of the Colonies examined," which was read 
before the general assembly, and by them ordered to be printed. 
Although this pamphlet was principally directed against the stamp 
act, passed in the preceding, and repealed in the succeeding years, 
yet it embraced pertinent remarks on the court of admiralty, trials 
by jury, the sugar and molasses duty act, &c. 

In 1757, during the French war, Mr. Hopkins was active and promi- 
nent in efforts to raise the inhabitants of the colony against the enemy. 

He was chosen to command a company of volunteers, composed 
of almost all the leading men in the town of Providence. The 
militia of the state, under Colonel John Andrews, had already 
marched, and the volunteers were preparing to follow them, when, 
on the day preceding their intended departure, an express arrived 
with intelligence that their services were no longer necessary. The 
return of Lord Loudoun to New York, with the regular army, had re- 
moved all fear of an invasion ; the militia of Rhode Island returned, 
and the heavy affliction created among the families and friends of 
the fathers of the town and their associate volunteers, was dispelled. 

Mr. Hopkins again appeared in the general assembly, as a repre- 
sentative from Providence, in 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775; although, 
during the last two years, he was also a delegate to the general con- 
gress. Having, in 1775, been a second time appointed chief justice 
of the superior court, he presented, in his person, the singular 
spectacle of an individual holding, at the same instant, the three 
honourable and important offices of member of assembly, delegate 
to congress, and chief justice. 

On the tenth of August, 1774, he was appointed, together with 
the honourable Samuel Ward, to represent the colony of Rhode 
Island, in the general congress which met in Philadelphia on the 
fifth of September. Mr. Hopkins took his seat in that august 
assembly, on the first day of its session, and was a member of the 
first two committees, appointed by congress ; — the one to state the 


rights of the colonies in general, the several instances in which 
those rights were violated or infringed, and the means most proper 
to be pursued for obtaining a restoration of them; — the other, to 
examine and report the several statutes affecting the trade and 
manufactures of the colonies. 

But while he principally assisted in the general council of the 
nation, in 1774 his services were extended to the assembly of Rhode 
Island, of which he was also a member. It was principally owing 
to his influence and exertions, that an act, the preamble and body 
of which were dictated by him, was passed by that assembly, in 
June, 1774, prohibiting the importation of negroes into the colony. 

But it was not only by precept, but example, that his views of slavery 
were demonstrated. In the year 1773, he emancipated a number of 
people of colour whom he had before held as slaves ; and previous to 
that period, he had decreed their freedom, by his last will and testa- 
ment. Many of their descendants are now living, as free men and 
women, in Providence, of good character, and in easy circumstances. 

At this period, Mr. Hopkins was also one of the committee of 
safety of the town of Providence. On the seventh of May, 1775, 
he was re-elected a delegate, and on the eighteenth of that month, 
took his seat in the second congress; being, at the same time, a 
representative in the legislature of his native state. On the fourth 
of May, 1776, he was again elected, with Mr. Ellery, to congress, 
bearing with him to the seat of the general government, the most 
firm and energetic instructions. Thus he was a memher of that 
immortal congress which declared the colonies to be free, sovereign, 
and independent states; and his signature is attached to that sub- 
lime and imperishable instrument which has no prototype in the 
archives of nations. His signature indicating on the declaration of 
independence, a very tremulous hand, in perfect contrast with the 
bold, nervous, and prominent, writing of the president, (which has 
been alluded to in exemplification of his character,) it may have 
engendered surmises unfavourable to the determined spirit of Mr. 
Hopkins, as acting under the influence of fear. It is, therefore, 
proper to state, that, for a number of years previous, he had been 
afflicted with a nervous affection; and when he wrote at all, which 
was seldom, he was compelled to guide his right hand with the left. 
The venerable Moses Brown, of Providence, has, on various occa- 
sions, acted as his amanuensis, on committees of the assembly, in 
the correspondence of the committee of safety, as well as in matters 
of business. In this manner he drew up the ac of assembly, of 


1774, against the slave trade, while Mr. Hopkins, daring his dicta- 
tion, was walking to and fro in the room. 

In 1776, he was chosen a commissioner to meet delegates from 
the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and 
advise and consult on ways and means, more immediately for the 
defence and protection of the New England States, and, generally, 
for the promotion and defence of the common cause. These com- 
missioners met in Providence, and elected Mr. Hopkins their pre- 
sident. In the following year, he also presided over the meeting 
of commissioners, held at Springfield, in Massachusetts, on the 
thirtieth of July. 

After the intervention of a year, he was, for the last time, elected 
a deputy to congress, on the eighth of 31ay, 1778 ; and, during the 
years 1777, 1778, and 1779, served with untiring zeal in the general 
assembly of Rhode Island, although he was now seventy-two years 
of age. — He discharged his congressional duties with great ability 
and faithfulness, and with equal advantage to his own reputation 
and to the public interest. Being professionally conversant with 
the business of shipping, he was particularly useful in the commit- 
tees appointed to fit out armed vessels, to devise ways and means 
for furnishing the colonies with a naval armament, and in the del' • 
berations on the rules and orders for the regulation of the navy. 
He was also a distinguished member of the committee, appointed 
in June, 1776, to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to 
be entered into between the colonies, which, although it proved, 
under future circumstances, to be but a rope of sand, was, at the 
time in which it was completed, of vast importance to the unanimity, 
and consequent success, of the revolutionary struggle. 

Mr. Hopkins was one of those strong-minded men, who, by pure 
love of learning, and devotedness to study, have overcome the defi- 
ciencies of early education; and, it cannot be questioned, although, 
in most cases, preliminary instruction to a certain extent is indis- 
pensable, that information voluntarily acquired is more strongly 
impressed upon the mind, and invites a more thorough investiga- 
tion, than general tuition at all seasons and on all subjects, which is 
not unfrequently regarded with apathy and indifference. A common 
country school education, at that period, afforded little more than a 
knowledge of reading and writing. Upon this foundation, Mr. 
Hopkins, from the vigour of his understanding, and the intuitive 
energy of his mind, established a character not only prominent in 
the annals of his country, but in the walks of literature. Possessing 


a commanding genius, his constant and assiduous application in the 
pursuit of knowledge eminently distinguished him in the first class 
of literati. A leading and active promoter of literary and scientific 
intelligence, he attached himself in early youth to the study of books 
and men, and continued to be a constant and improving reader, a 
close and careful observer, until the period of his death. Holding 
all abridgments and abridgers in very low estimation, it is cited, in 
exemplification of his habitual deep research, and the indefatigability 
with which he penetrated the recesses, instead of skimming the sur- 
face of things, that, instead of depending upon summaries, and 
concentrated authorities, he perseveringly perused the whole of the 
great collection of ancient and modern history, compiled about half 
a century ago, by some distinguished scholars in Europe; and that 
he also read through all of Thurloe's, and other ponderous collec- 
tions of state-papers. The advantages derived from this assiduity 
were, to him, particularly extensive, owing to his retentive memory, 
and ready" recollection. An instance of this nature has been pre- 
served: at a meeting of the owners of a vessel, of whom he was 
one, Mr. Hopkins sat down and made out his account, without any 
reference whatever to his books, although it necessarily included 
many items of small amount and consequence. — As a public speaker, 
he was an example worthy of imitation : always to the point, clear, 
concise, pertinent, and powerful; his eloquence was sometimes 
energetic, but generally calm, rational, and convincing; — never 
excursive, but commonly short and pithy. Skilled in many branches 
of the liberal arts, the poem on the untimely fate of his son, murdered 
by the Indians, which has descended to our times, affords no indi- 
cation of the possession of poetic talent. 

Mr. Hopkins was esteemed an excellent mathematician. He 
greatly assisted in the important observations on the transit of 
Venus over the sun's disk, in June, 1769, a rare phenomenon, of the 
greatest consequence, because it affords the best, and indeed the 
only accurate method of determining that most important problem in 
astronomy, the sun's parallax, or the angle under which the earth's 
semi-diameter appears from the sun; and it is only by a knowledge 
of the sun's distance from the earth, in some known measure, that 
a knowledge of the true dimensions of the solar system can be ac- 
quired. The first transit of Venus was observed in 1739; and only 
two have since happened; the first in 1761, and the last in 1769. 

Mr. Hopkins was instrumental in forming a public library in Provi- 
dence, about the year 1750; and, when it was destroyed by fire, in the 


winter of 17G0, was equally active and useful in promoting its re-esta- 
blishment. — He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, 
and, for many years, chancellor of the college of Rhode Island. 

But it was in the character of the statesman and the patriot, that 
Mr. Hopkins was most conspicuous. In an age fruitful in the pro- 
duction of eminent men, he was one among the most eminent. 
Warmed by an inextinguishable love of liberty, and considering the 
happiness of his country as the first object of pursuit, he obtained 
a perfect acquaintance with the history of mankind, the policies of 
the civilized world, the principles and systems of law, and the pro- 
found art of governing the hearts, as well as the persons of men. 

Possessed of a sound, discriminating mind, and a clear and com- 
prehensive understanding, he was alike distinguished for his public 
and private virtues, being as useful a private citizen, as he was an 
able and faithful public officer. An universal benevolence adorned 
his virtues, and his great study and delight was in doing good. 
Candid and upright in all his dealings with the world, he was more 
attentive to the concerns of his public stations, than to his pecuniary 
and private affairs. It is the testimony of a survivor, who was in- 
timately acquainted with him during the last forty-five years of his 
life, that they were passed in a " useful and honourable manner." 
A friend to the poor, the fatherless, and the widow, he often tenderly 
advised and counselled them; maintaining their rights, and minis- 
tering to their comforts. Free of access, open and candid in his 
manners, his doors were as open as his heart to the voice and relief 
of affliction; and so genuine was his charity, that it was remarked 
by his friends, that he conferred more benefits on his political ene- 
mies than on them. An affectionate husband, and a tender parent, 
he was greatly attached to the regular habits of domestic life. Ex- 
emplary, quiet, and serene in his family, he governed his children 
and domestics in an easy and affectionate manner. A visit which 
General Washington made, unattended, to Governor Hopkins, is 
stated by a living witness of the interview, to have strongly exhi- 
bited the simple, friendly, pleasant, and easy manners of those illus- 
trious men. — Although his pecuniary circumstances were compara- 
tively small, particularly considering his abilities and station in life, 
yet he possessed a competency; and visiters, particularly travelling 
ministers, &c. of the society of Friends, were always kindly wel- 
comed and entertained at his hospitable mansion. 

Stephen Hopkins, although sectional spirit endeavoured ineffec- 
tually to brand him with the eternal stigma of infidelity, was a firm 


6eliever in the Christian religion; and he has been heard by a friend, 
now living, to confound gainsayers by the force of his arguments in 
support of it. 

Governor Hopkins professed the principles of the society of 
Friends, at whose places of worship he was a regular attendant ; 
and his second marriage took place in Friend's meeting, although 
he does not appear to have held the right of membership. His 
house was the resort of the ministers, elders, and other members, 
engaged in religious visits ; and the usual place of meeting in Pro- 
vidence being contracted, the general religious meetings of the 
society were, in the winter season, frequently held at his dwelling. 

He was a perfect man of business; having been extensively en- 
gaged in trade and navigation, and also concerned in agriculture 
and manufactures. As a farmer, he devoted himself, when disen- 
gaged from public affairs, to the practical parts of agriculture; as 
a merchant, he was skilled in almost all kinds of commerce; and, 
as a manufacturer, he was concerned in iron works, which made 
pig-iron, hollow-ware, cannon for the United States, &c. He pur- 
sued these employments with various success, without having become 
rich, nor yet destitute of the comforts of life. 

In the year 1726, he married Sarah Scott, the paternal great- 
grandfather of whom was the first settler, of the society of Friends. 
in Providence. She died of a lingering disorder, on the ninth of 
September, 1753, in the forty-seventh year of her age. 

On the second of January, 1755, Governor Hopkins found a second 
wife in the person of Anna Smith, widow of Benjamin Smith. She 
was a pious and amiable woman, and a member of the society of 
Friends, according to whose regulations the marriage ceremony was 
performed. — In person, he was of the middle size, well formed and 
proportioned ; his manners were mild and unostentatious ; and his 
features manly, comely, and prepossessing. 

This great and good man closed his long, honourable, and useful 
life, on the thirteenth of July, 1785, in the seventy-ninth year of 
his age. His last illness was a lingering fever, slow in its advances, 
and mild in its features ; and he retained full possession of his facul- 
ties and tranquillity, to the period of his dissolution. A full persua- 
sion of the unbounded goodness of the Deity brightened the pros- 
pect of his future happiness. As in life he had despised the follies, 
so in death he rose superior to the fears, of an ignorant and licen- 
tious world; and he expected with patience, and met with pious and 
philosophic intrepidity, the stroke of death. 
19 N 


William Ellery the elder was descended from a family origi- 
nally of Bristol, in England, which settled in the latter part of the 
seventeenth century at Newport, in Rhode Island. He held succes- 
sively the offices of judge, senator, and lieutenant-governor of the 
colony, and died in 1764. 

William Ellery, the son of this gentleman, and the subject of 
the following memoir, was born at Newport, on the twenty-second 
of December, 1727. His early education he received chiefly from 
his father, who devoted to it much time and sedulous attention. 
When he had arrived at the age requisite for his admission into a 
university, he was sent to Harvard college, an institution which even 
at that early period had obtained the celebrity which it still continues 
to enjoy. Here he remained until the twentieth year of his age, 
and during his collegiate course bore the character of a zealous 
student; not, however, indisposed to partake of the amusements 
natural to his years, and to which the vivacity of his disposition in- 
clined him. The Greek and Latin languages were the favourite 
objects of his pursuit ; these he studied with great fidelity, and made 
himself so good a scholar in them, that during all the engagements 
and bustle of his subsequent life, he retained not merely his fond- 
ness for them, and general acquaintance with classical literature, 
but much critical accuracy and correct grammatical knowledge. In 
the year 1747, he commenced bachelor of arts and left Cambridge. 
Immediately on his return to Newport, he set himself to the study 
of the law, to the practice of which he was afterwards admitted. 

Mr. Ellery pursued the practice of the law for about twenty years, 
devoting himself to it, during that period, with great zeal. Few 
particulars, however, of this part of his life have descended to us, 
lost as they have been in the lapse of time, or obscured by subse- 
quent events of more general interest than the details of domestic 
duties. He succeeded, however, in attaining the two objects which 
are most dear to a man of honourable ambition and independent 



feelings, a competent fortune, and that rank and esteem among his 
fellow citizens, which, while it secured their affection, taught them 
to look-up to him with confidence in times of difficulty. 

Of these feelings he was soon destined to receive a decided proof. 
The aggressions of the mother country were becoming every day 
more violent, and all prudent and thinking men began to look round 
and inquire what was to be the result. 

As soon as the idea had been suggested of a general meeting of 
delegates from all the provinces, by the formation of a continental 
congress, Rhode Island cheerfully fell in with the proposition, and 
sent two of her most distinguished citizens, Governor Hopkins and 
Mr. Ward, to represent her in that venerable body. In her in- 
structions to these gentlemen, we find nothing expressed of that 
anxious desire to conciliate the British government, which is visible 
in those of some of the other colonies — not indeed that any were 
disposed to surrender their liberties, whatever might be the peril, 
yet some were certainly more desirous than others, that no opening 
should be given to accuse them of defection from their union with 
the mother country. Rhode Island simply directed her delegates 
to " meet and join with the commissioners or delegates from the 
other colonies, in consulting upon proper measures to obtain a repeal 
of the several acts of the British parliament, for levying taxes upon 
his majesty's subjects in America, without their consent, and parti- 
cularly an act lately passed for blocking up the port of Boston, and 
upon proper measures to establish the rights and liberties of the 
colonies, upon a just and solid foundation." 

Finding, however, that nothing short of resolute measures would 
be of any avail, it was determined by the province, that her dele- 
gates should carry to the congress which met in the spring of 1776, 
the strongest powers to adopt them; and in order that they might 
not want the sanction of her actions, as well as her declarations, 
she anticipated congress in the assertion of independence; for by a 
solemn act of her general assembly, she dissolved all connexion 
with Great Britain, in the month of May. She withdrew her alle- 
giance from the king, and renounced his government for ever, and, 
in a declaration of independence, put down in a condensed, logical 
statement, her unanswerable reasons for so doing. 

To fulfil her wishes, to carry out the plans which she had thus 
commenced, Rhode Island selected as her representatives, her for- 
mer delegate Governor Hopkins, and William Ellery, the sub- 
ject of this notice. Ever since Mr. Ellery had been engaged in the 


practice of the law, he had been very prominent in the vigorous and 
patriotic measures adopted to resist the British government; there 
was scarcely an important transaction of the time in which he had 
not borne a leading part. Fully impressed with the solemn trust 
delegated to him, and prepared to assert and support in their fullest 
extent the wishes and views of his constituents, he took his seat in 
congress on the fourteenth of May, 1776; being authorized and 
empowered to consult and advise with the other delegates, upon the 
most proper measures for promoting and confirming the strictest 
union and confederation between the United Colonies, for exerting 
their whole strength and force to annoy the common enemy, and for 
securing to the colonies their rights and liberties, both civil and 
religious, whether by entering into treaties with any prince, state, 
or potentate, or by such other prudent and effectual ways and 
means as should be devised and agreed on; and, in conjunction 
with the delegates from the United Colonies, or the major part of 
them, to enter into and adopt all such measures, taking the greatest 
care to secure to the colony, in the strongest and most perfect man- 
ner, its established form, and all the powers of government, so far 
as related to its internal police and conduct of its own affairs, civil 
and religious. They were also instructed and directed to exert 
their utmost abilities, in carrying on the just and necessary war, in 
which they were engaged against cruel and unnatural enemies, in 
the most vigorous manner, until peace should be restored to the 
colonies, and their rights and liberties secured upon a solid and per- 
manent basis. 

By referring to the journals of congress, we find that while Mr. 
Ellery remained in that body, he was a member of many important 
committees, and it is well known that he was a very active and in- 
fluential member of the house. He was on the committee appointed 
to consider the ways and means of establishing expresses between 
the several continental posts; on that to consider what provision 
ought to be made for such as are wounded or disabled in the land 
or sea service; on the treasury committee; on a grand committee, 
consisting of one delegate from each state, who had authority to 
employ proper persons to purchase, in their respective states, a suf- 
ficient number of blankets and woollens fit for soldiers' clothes, and 
to take the most effectual and speedy methods for getting such 
woollens made up, and distributed among the regular continental 
army, in such proportion as would best promote the public service: 
and also to purchase all other necessary clothing for the soldiers, in 


such proportions as they judged, upon the best information, would 
be wanted; on the committee on marine affairs, of which he was 
always a particularly useful and active member; indeed, it was the 
wish of his state, that in this respect her delegates should take a 
high ground in congress, and urge on that body the propriety, and 
in their present circumstances, the evident advantage of giving to 
the war a naval cast. Distinguished for her commercial marine, 
and for the enterprize and intrepidity of her mariners, she felt the 
necessity and urged the expediency of naval military exertion. The 
first little fleet, the germ of our present naval character and fame, 
was commanded by a native Rhode Islander, Commodore Ezek 
Hopkins, a brother of the subject of the preceding memoir, who 
surprised New Providence, captured the governor, lieutenant-go- 
vernor, and other officers of the crown, seized a hundred pieces of 
cannon, and carried off all the munitions of war from the island. 

It was during this session of congress, too, that Mr. Ellcry affixed 
his name to the Declaration of Independence ; and his fine bold sig- 
nature is in striking contrast with the tremulous characters of his 
colleague, whose limbs trembled with age and illness, while his 
spirit was as bold and his intellect as vivid as any of those around 
him. He was fond, in his later years, of relating the events and 
characteristic anecdotes of the times about which we are speaking, 
and had they been preserved, they would have afforded a rich fund 
of interest to our own and future generations; but unfortunately, 
even tradition itself has retained but few of them, and, as in man}' 
other instances, we are left to cold generalities, where it would be 
delightful to dwell on minute incidents. He often spoke of the 
signing of the declaration; and he spoke of it as an event which 
many regarded with awe, perhaps with uncertainty, but none with 
fear. "I was determined," he used to say, "to see how they all 
looked, as they signed what might be their death warrant. I placed 
myself beside the secretary, Charles Thomson, and eyed each 
closely as he affixed his name to the document. Undaunted reso- 
lution was displayed in every countenance." 

During the year 1777, we find Mr. Ellery still a member of con- 
gress, not less useful than before. Following up the peculiar wishes 
and views of his state, he continued to pay great attention to naval 
affairs, and early in the year we find him appointed on a committee, 
to which seem to have been intrusted all the admiralty transactions 
of the government ; they were appointed to hear and determine 
upon appeals brought against sentences passed on libels in the 
n 2 


courts of admiralty in the respective states, agreeably to the reso- 
lutions of congress; and the several appeals, when lodged with the 
secretary, were to be by him delivered to them for their final deter- 
mination. Among other duties assigned him this year, we may 
mention that of devising ways and means to support the continental 
currency and replenish the exhausted treasury ; that of affording 
aid and assistance to officers who had been taken prisoners and re- 
leased on parole ; superintending the commercial affairs of the 
country; investigating the unfortunate occurrences which attended 
the capture of Ticondcroga ; preventing the admission into offices 
of trust of persons secretly hostile to the government; and various 
others, requiring great attention and industry. To these we may 
add a plan relative to his own state, brought forward by the marine 
committee, of which we have seen he was a member, and no doubt 
at his instance. 

While Mr. Ellery was thus exerting himself for the public good, 
he was destined also to suffer for it. The British army, under 
General Piggot, had seized Rhode Island, taken possession of New- 
port, and fortifying themselves in an advantageous position, made 
it the head quarters of a large portion of their force. With a 
foreign army thus among them, it is not to be supposed that the whole 
population of the island did not suffer ; but the vengeance of the 
officers and soldiers was particularly directed against those who had 
taken a leading part in the revolutionary conflict, especially the 
delegates in congress. This Mr. Ellery felt in the injury of much 
of his property in and around Newport, and the burning of his 
dwelling-house in that place. His ardour, however, in the cause 
remained unabated, and he determined at all hazards to adhere to 
the congress, where he believed himself useful. His old companion 
in that body, Governor Hopkins, had retired ; but being solicited by 
his countrymen to remain, he determined to do so, leaving the pro- 
tection of his property to their care or to chance. 

During the whole of the year 1778, with the exception of a few 
weeks of the summer passed in Rhode Island, Mr. Ellery was a 
faithful attendant in congress, pursuing the same useful course 
which had marked all his political career. To trace him through 
this would lead us too much into detail, and it seems proper rather 
to pass them over in a general notice, than to enter into the minute 
particulars of events, which were in their nature and consequences 
connected more with the history of the nation than the private life 
of an individual. We may, however, mention with just praise, the 


efforts and arguments of Mr. Ellcry in the cause of a portion of his 
countrymen who suffered under a mode of warfare equal dishonour- 
aide and cruel, that of seizing them in their homes and carrying 
them off to the enemy. This practice had proceeded to great 
lengths, so as to render a residence on the sea-hoard terrifying to 
the most resolute; and no measures seemed too severe, which could 
put a stop to such a horrible system. Mr. Ellcry therefore urged 
the subject with all his powers on the attention of congress, and 
aided by several of the most distinguished members of that body, 
was fortunate enough to obtain the passage of the following reso- 
lution on the subject. " Whereas a few deluded inhabitants of these 
states, prompted thereto by the arts of the enemy, have associated 
together for the purpose of seizing and secretly conveying to places 
in possession of the British forces, such of the loyal citizens, officers 
and soldiers of these states, as may fall into their power; and being- 
assisted by parties furnished by the enemy, have in several instances 
carried their nefarious designs into execution ; and such practices 
being contrary to their allegiance as subjects, and repugnant to the 
rules of war ; Resolved, that whatever inhabitant of these states 
shall kill or seize, or take any loyal citizen or citizens thereof, and 
convey him, her, or them, to any place within the power of the 
enemy, or shall enter into any combination for such purpose, or 
attempt to carry the same into execution, or hath assisted or shall 
assist therein; or shall, by giving intelligence, acting as a guide, or 
in any other manner whatever, aid the enemy in the perpetration 
thereof, he shall suffer death by the judgment of a court-martial, as 
a traitor, assassin and spy, if the offence be committed within seventy 
miles of the head quarters of the grand or other armies of these 
states, where a general officer commands." 

In the month of June, in this year, Mr. Ellery, with the other 
delegates in Congress, ratified the articles of confederation on be- 
half of Rhode Island, having received from their constituents autho- 
rity so to do. 

We have noticed the absence of Mr. Ellery from congress during 
a part of the summer of this year. His object in returning home, 
was not, however, on his private business, but it was to assist and 
co-operate with some of the patriots of the state, in arranging a 
plan to drive out the British army stationed there. 

Circumstances, however, did not permit the execution of a design 
thus resolutely formed ; for it was found, after the desertion of the 
harbour of Newport by the French fleet, that the British were receiv- 


ing constant supplies', so as to render them considerably superior in 
men and resources to the Americans. It was therefore wisely re- 
solved to quit the lines which they had formed around Newport; 
which they did on the night of the twentieth of August. General 
Sullivan retreated with great order.; but he had not been five hours 
at the north end of the island, when his troops were fired upon by 
the British, who had pursued them, on discovering their retreat. 
The pursuit was made by two parties, and on two roads ; to one 
was opposed Colonel Henry B. Livingston, to the other John Laurens, 
aid-de-camp to General Washington, and each of them had a com- 
mand of light troops. In the first instance, these light troops were 
compelled by superior numbers to give way; but they kept up a 
retreating fire. On being re-inforced, they gave their pursuers a 
check, and at length repulsed them. By degrees the action became 
in some respects general, and near twelve hundred Americans were 
engaged. The loss on each side was between two and three 

On the following day, a cannonade was kept up by both armies, 
but neither chose to attack the other. The British waited for a 
re-inforcement, which they every moment expected, and General 
Sullivan was on the watch for the first favourable moment to with- 
draw his troops from the island. Throughout the day he continued 
to take those measures which were calculated to produce an im- 
pression of his being determined to maintain his ground. About 
six in the afternoon of the thirtieth, his orders to prepare for a 
retreat were given, and his whole army crossed over, and had dis- 
embarked on the continent about Tiverton, by two in the morning, 
without having created in the enemythe slightest suspicion, that he 
had contemplated the movement which was now completed. The 
troops were stationed along the coast from Tiverton to Providence. 

Never was retreat more fortunate. The next day sir Harry 
Clinton arrived, and the return of the American army to the conti- 
nent would have become impracticable. 

The conduct of Sullivan was highly approved by the commander- 
in-chief, and by congress. A resolution passed in that body, de- 
claring his retreat to have been " prudent, timely, and well .con- 
ducted." They also voted their thanks to the general and the army 
under his command, for their fortitude and bravery, in the action 
of the twenty-ninth of August. 

Thus ended the expedition on Rhode Island, the success of which 
had been generally considered certain. Its failure was indeed 


unfortunate, but it was to be attributed to one of tliose accidents 
which so often derange military plans; and however much it is to 
be regretted that the Count D'Estaing deemed it his duty to remove 
his fleet from Narragansett bay, his subsequent conduct proves that 
he entertained towards this country feelings full of gallantry and 
kindness. Shortly after the failure of the expedition Mr. Ellery 
returned to Philadelphia, and resumed his seat in congress. 

In January, 1779, Mr. Ellery was appointed by congress a mem- 
ber of a large committee, to which was intrusted the delicate task 
of arranging and settling some diplomatic difficulties which had 
occurred among the commissioners sent by the United States to 
Europe ; and received at the same time full authority to enter into 
the whole subject of our foreign relations. This was speedily fol- 
lowed by his being made chairman of a committee to take into con- 
sideration the distresses of many of the inhabitants of his own state, 
caused by the occupation of it by the British, and he brought into 
congress a strong report on the subject, which induced them to pass 
the following resolution : " Whereas, the delegates of the state of 
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in pursuance of an ex- 
press vote of the general assembly of the said state, have repre- 
sented to congress that many of its inhabitants, especially those 
who have come off from the island of Rhode Island, must inevitably 
perish unless they are speedily supplied with the necessaries of life, 
and have in the strongest terms requested us to recommend to the 
states of Connecticut and New York to repeal their acts laying an 
embargo on provisions, so far as respects supplying the said inha- 
bitants with provisions by land : Resolved, that the president write 
to the governors of the states of Connecticut and New York, re- 
questing them to afford such supplies of flour and other provisions, 
for the distressed inhabitants of the state of Rhode Island and Pro- 
vidence Plantations, as their necessities call for, so far as circum- 
stances will admit, and under such regulations as may best answer 
the end proposed." 

During his attendance on congress this year, and it was with very 
little interruption constant, Mr. Ellery devoted much of his time to 
the standing committees of which he was a member, especially 
those relative to appeals and admiralty transactions; this, owing to 
the loose constitution of the government under the articles of con- 
federation, was absolute necessary, as it formed, in fact, the execu- 
tive power, and through this medium all the public affairs were 
transacted. Sometimes, indeed, it led into difficulties, especially 


when any circumstance occurred which seemed to lead to a conflict 
between the powers of congress and of the individual states ; and 
the arrangement was often one of delicacy and importance. Such 
had nearly been the case during the present year, relative to some 
proceedings of the admiralty court of Pennsylvania ; and on its 
coming to the knowledge of congress, it was without delay referred 
to a committee, of which Mr. Ellery was a principal member. In 
reporting afterwards on the subject, he laid before the house a 
succinct statement of all the facts that had occurred, showed the 
propriety and indeed necessity that there was of an appeal to the 
general government, in all cases in which questions touching our 
relations with foreign countries might arise; and concluded with a 
series of propositions, so evidently consistent with the system which 
had been previously organized, as to meet the immediate approba- 
tion of congress, and set the affair entirely at rest. 

In the spring of this year, Mr. Ellery had the painful duty in- 
trusted to him, as a chairman of a committee of congress, of exer- 
cising, from motives of policy, a course of conduct deeply at variance 
with his feelings and inclination. The Bermuda islands, placed far 
in the Atlantic, small, barren and unprotected, ravaged by the 
fiercest tempests, and exposed to the incursions of every enemy, 
had always depended for absolute subsistence on the American 
colonies. By the war, their intercourse had been destroyed, and 
reduced to the extremity of distress, they sought from the compas- 
sion of congress that aid which distress alone entitled them to 
receive. Their petition was referred to Mr. Ellery and two other 
members, who deliberated upon it, with every wish to extend their 
assistance to the suffering islanders. Finding, however, that British 
vessels of war were stationed at the island ; that it was garrisoned 
by British troops ; and that it was doubtful whether the provisions 
they might send would ever reach those whose sufferings they were 
intended to relieve, they expressed their opinion to congress, that 
so long as Bermuda should continue to be guarded by British ships 
and garrisoned by British soldiers, how powerfully soever humanity 
might plead in their behalf, and the disposition of congress incline 
them to relieve the distresses of Bermuda, yet sound policy and the 
duty they owed to their constituents, constrained them to refuse a 
compliance with the request of the memorialists. Whether, how- 
ever, some incident occurred, which rendered the probability of 
assistance being more effectual, or the solicitations of the poor 
islanders were renewed, or for what other cause, is not apparent, 


yet little more than a week elapsed after this recommendation, 
when Mr. Ellery brought up one of a different character, and more 
consonant to his wishes ; in it he represented to the house, " that 
from a re-consideration of the deplorable circumstances of those 
unhappy persons, who are deprived, as it hath been represented to 
your committee, of the means of supplying themselves with bread, 
which are allowed to other inhabitants who openly profess their 
attachment to the enemies of these states, they are of opinion, that 
it be recommended to the executive powers of the states of Penn- 
sylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, re- 
spectively, to permit one thousand bushels of Indian corn to be 
exported from each of the said states, for the relief of the dis- 
tressed inhabitants of those islands." Congress, however, still 
deemed the measure inexpedient; fearful that while it did not 
answer the ends for which it was undertaken, it might involve 
them in disagreeable results, and interfere with the course which 
they had hitherto adopted in the conduct of the war. They there- 
fore took the report of the committee into consideration, and after 
much discussion, resolved that they would not at that time proceed 
farther in the matter. 

We have already alluded to the vivacity and sprightliness of Mr. 
Ellery's disposition. This was constantly displayed throughout his 
life; and even in the severest times, he often enlivened the discus- 
sions of congress by his ready wit. It is seldom, however, that 
genius of this kind can be sufficiently or properly appreciated by 
posterity; arising out of some accident or circumstance of the day, 
depending on some local or temporary allusion, struck off in the 
ardour of conversation, it passes away, leaving indeed to the indi- 
vidual from whose happy genius it has sprung, the reputation of a 
wit, but to those who have not heard it, nothing by which to know 
or taste its excellence. 

In the year 1781, Mr. Ellery did not take his seat in congress 
until the nineteenth of November, when he appeared there with his 
colleague, Mr. Cornell. Before he had been many weeks in the 
house, the old subject of admiralty jurisdiction again occurred, and 
he found that it was necessary to form some plan, by which the con- 
flicting interests or feelings of the general government, and the 
separate states might be less excited. The matter being accord- 
ingly referred to him and two other gentlemen, was taken into con- 
sideration, with a determination to adopt some measure which would 
place it eventually at rest, and the following resolution was brought 


in and passed by congress with that object. " To render more effec- 
tual the provision contained in the ordinance, ascertaining what cap- 
tures on water shall be lawful, for the capture and condemnation of 
goods, wares, and merchandizes of the growth, produce or manu- 
facture of Great Britain, or the territories depending thereon, in cer- 
tain cases : Resolved, that it be earnestly recommended to the legis- 
lature of each state, to pass acts to be in force during the continu- 
ance of the present war, for the seizure and condemnation of all 
goods, wares, and merchandizes of the growth, produce or manu- 
facture of Great Britain, or of any territory depending thereon, 
which shall be found on land within their respective jurisdictions, 
unless the same shall have been imported before the first day of 
March, 1782, or shall have been captured from the enemy." 

In the month of February, 1782, we find Mr. Ellery a member 
of a very important committee, that on a plan for the settlement of 
public accounts, which at this period of the war had become so 
greatly deranged, as to render a general revision absolutely neces- 
sary. The committee brought in a long report, and congress passed 
several resolutions, conforming with their views. A few days after, 
as chairman of a committee to whom the subject had been referred, 
he presented, for the consideration of the house, a plan for insti- 
tuting and organizing a department of foreign affairs — a branch of 
government long wanted, and now become absolutely necessary. 
Tn the succeeding year, Mr. Ellery had the satisfaction of acting as 
the organ of congress, in expressing to his noble fellow-citizen, 
General Greene, their sense and that of his country, for the benefit 
of his military services. This he did in the following resolutions, 
offered by a committee of which he was chairman: "Resolved, 
That two pieces of the field ordnance, taken from the British army 
at the Cowpens, Augusta, or Eutaw, be presented by the comman- 
der-in-chief of the armies of the United States, to Major-General 
Greene, as a public testimonial of the wisdom, fortitude, and mili- 
tary skill which distinguished his command in the southern depart- 
ment, and of the eminent services which, amidst complicated difficul- 
ties and dangers, and against an enemy greatly superior in numbers, 
he has successfully performed for his country: and that a memo- 
randum be engraved on the side-pieces of ordnance, expressive of 
the substance of this resolution. Resolved, That the commander- 
in-chief be informed, that Major-General Greene hath the permis- 
sion of congress to visit his family at Rhode Island." 

In the year 1784, Mr. Ellery was a member of the committee to 


whom was referred the definitive treaty of peace with Great Bri- 
tain, and who recommended its ratification; he also continued zeal- 
ously his labours on several other committees of importance, espe- 
cially directing' his attention to affairs of marine and finance; and 
when the grand committee of states was appointed to prepare and 
report to congress, an ordinance for making the necessary arrange- 
ments of the treasury, and for more particularly defining the powers 
of the board of treasury, and also to revise the institution of the 
office for foreign affairs, and of the war office, and to report such 
alterations as they might judge necessary, he was elected as the 
representative therein of his own state. 

The year 1785 was the last during which Mr. Ellery remained a 
member of the old continental congress, and took a very active part 
in public affairs. Yet we cannot pass over the notice of his long 
services in this body without mentioning one act which attended 
its close, and which will render him ever dear to the friends of 
humanity; it was his seconding and supporting, with all his abilities, 
the following resolution, which was offered by Mr. King: "That 
there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the 
states, described in the resolve of congress of the twenty-third of April, 
1784, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall 
have been personally guilty ; and that this regulation shall be an arti- 
cle of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitu- 
tions between the thirteen original states, and each of the states 
described in the said resolve of the twenty-third of April, 1784." 

In the following spring, Mr. Ellery, having retired from public life, 
was elected by congress a commissioner of the continental loan- 
office for the state of Rhode Island; and soon after, by his own 
fellow citizens, chief justice of their superior court; a station, how- 
ever, which he did not long retain. A few years after, and imme- 
diately on the organization of the federal government, he received 
from his old friend General Washington, the appointment of collector 
of the customs for his native town of Newport, and in that office he 
quietly spent the remainder of his days. Not desirous of wealth, the 
small revenues of his situation, added to what he had been able to 
save from neglect and destruction during the war, though from these 
he had severely suffered, afforded him a competence, and he passed 
happily and delightfully through the calm evening of a life, whose 
morning and noon had been devoted to the labours of industry, vir- 
tue, and patriotism. In small things he maintained the character he 
had won in greater, for in the whole of the period during which he 


held his office in the customs — and it was thirty years — such was his 
prudence and punctuality, that the government suffered by the loss 
of but one bond, for two hundred dollars, and on that he had exer- 
cised the uncommon caution of taking five securities. 

His death, which occurred on the fifteenth of February, 1820, and 
when he had passed the venerable age of ninety-two years, was in 
unison with his life; and as the circumstances have been related by 
a distinguished gentleman of Rhode Island, intimately acquainted 
with him, they present a picture as interesting as has ever been 
framed by romance, or handed down to us in the annals of ancient 
times. His end was, indeed, that of a philosopher. In truth, death, 
in its common form, never came near him. His strength wasted 
gradually for the last year, until he had not enough left to draw in 
his breath, and so he ceased to breathe. The day on which he died, 
he got up and dressed himself, took his old flag-bottomed chair, 
without arms, on which he had sat for more than half a century, 
and was reading Tally's Offices in the Latin, without glasses, 
though the print was as fine as that of the smallest pocket Bible. 
The physician stopped in on his way to the hospital, as he usually 
did; and, on perceiving that the old gentleman could scarcely raise 
his eye-lids to look at him, took his hand, and found that his pulse 
was gone. After drinking a little wine and water, the physician 
told him his pulse beat more strongly. " O ! yes, doctor, I have a 
charming pulse. But," he continued, " it is idle to talk to me in 
this way. I am going off the stage of life, and it is a great bless- 
ing that I go free from sickness, pain, and sorrow." Some time 
after, his daughter, finding he had become extremely weak, wished 
him to be put to bed, which he at first objected to, saying he felt no 
pain, and there was no occasion for his doing so. Shortly after- 
wards, however, fearing he might possibly fall out of his chair, he 
told them they might place him upright in the bed, so that he could 
continue to read. They did so, and he continued reading Cicero 
very quietly for some time; presently they looked at him and found 
him dead, sitting in the same posture, with the book under his chin, 
as a man who becomes drowsy and goes to sleep. 

" Of no distemper, of no blast he died, 
But fell like autumn fruit that mellow'd long; 
E'en wonder'd at because he falls no sooner. 
Fate seem'd to wind him up for fourscore years, 
Yet freshly ran he on twelve winters more : 
Till like a clock, worn out with eating- time, 
The wheels of weary life at last stood still." 


The preceding sketch of the incidents of Mr. Ellery's life will he 
sufficient to enable a reader to form a just estimate of his character 
and excellence; and with this it might he sufficient to commit this 
memoir, which can pretend to little merit, to the world. We have, 
however, been fortunate enough to obtain from one, who knew him 
well and long, some information whfch may tend more fully to 
develope his disposition and virtues, and with a summary of these, 
authentic as they are, we shall close our notice of his well-spent 
life. A firm whig under the colonial government, and of the Wash- 
ington school under the federal, he was always attached ardently to 
a free, efficient, impartial, protecting government. — He studied the 
Scriptures with reverence, diligence, and a liberal spirit; feeling 
their value, seeking for the truth, and aiming at the obedience they 

He was indeed tenacious of his own opinion; and some might 
have thought him obstinate where he was inflexible, and rash where 
he had been most patient and careful ; and perhaps he was not 
always free from asperity towards others; and the calmness of his 
later years may have appeared to those who had long known him, 
more as the fruit of self-watchfulness, mellowed by age, than of a 
naturally gentle temper. But never was there a man more earnest 
for the right of others to their own judgment, more indignant at the 
pretensions of any man, or any set of men, to lord it in matters of 
religious or political opinion, or more happy at seeing all truth 
brought to the trial of fair discussion. 

He was fond of profound study and of elegant literature, exer- 
cising his powers to the end of life upon the works of distinguished 
writers in theology, intellectual philosophy, and political economy; 
continuing his acquaintance with the best Latin works, of which he 
was always fond, and amusing himself with such fictions especially 
as abounded in humour, and such poetry as was distinguished for 
wit, elegance, close sense, and exact description. 

He is understood to have been very intimate with the distin- 
guished men with whom he was in public life, and to have been 
highly valued by them for his excellent judgment, sound principle, 
and fine colloquial powers and social spirit. He was but little in 
the habit of alluding to his public services ; but his memory sup- 
plied him with anecdotes of others, with which he was always ready 
to instruct or entertain, and his narratives and sketches were mark- 
ed with singular distinctness and spirit, and often with the finest 
humour. He was always averse from display, as to all that con- 


cerned himself; and so little did he seem to be conscious of the im- 
portant part he had acted in the affairs of his country, that one, 
who knew only his parental tenderness, would hardly have believed 
that he was ready at any moment to part with all, for the cause he 
had engaged in. While attending Upon his duties in congress, he 
received accounts of the death of a child; and in a letter to a friend, 
after speaking of this affliction, and expressing his grief and his 
sympathy with his distant family, he applies to himself and to the 
cause he had so deeply at heart, words too awful to be lightly used 
by any man. "He that loveth father or mother, he that loveth son 
or daughter more than liberty, is not worthy of her." His quiet 
disregard of notoriety is well shown in his reply about fourteen years 
since, to a friend who had alluded to his being in congress at the 
time of Chatham's celebrated eulogy — "Probably I was a member 
of congress when Chatham eulogized that body, and possibly I might 
have been vain enough to have snuffed up part of that incense as 
my due; but the more I have known of myself, the more reason I 
have had not to think too highly of myself. Humility, rather than 
pride, becomes such creatures as we are." Those who knew him 
only during the last twenty or thirty years of his life, speak of the 
religious serenity with which he looked upon the world and its con- 
vulsions; estimating and using aright its good and evil, and fearing 
little from man, either as to himself or nations. " The Lord reign- 
eth," were the words with which he usually ended whatever he had 
to say of public sufferings and dangers here and abroad. 

To the young he was dear for good, cheering counsel, and almost 
youthful sympathy. His mind and affections never seemed to grow 
old, but only to ripen with age. His conversation never lost its 
humour, richness, and variety, its freedom and temperate earnest- 
ness, and the originality of a thoroughly sincere and natural mind ; 
nor his advice its authority; nor his opinions the marks of wide and 
deliberate observation and thought. It was a privilege to be with 
him; and next only to that, to enjoy his familiar correspondence. 
This, we believe, was almost confined to his connexions. We have 
seen but few of his letters ; of which thousands, perhaps, are still 
preserved, though he frequently expressed a wish, some years before 
his death, that they might be destroyed. They are said to be re- 
markably happy specimens of letter-writing. They were written, 
principally, after he had retired from public life, but are full of 
observations upon the past as well as the present, and marked with 
the same variety of sedateness and mirth, and wisdom and domestic 


interest, which were observable in bis conversation. His grave or 
tranquil manner, always so becoming in age, gave proper weight to 
his serious remarks, and sometimes bad an air of indescribable 
archness or covert humour, when lie allowed it to run into his 
lighter conversation or writings. He continued to correspond with 
some of his young relatives till the close of bis days. Only three 
weeks before his death, he wrote a long letter, containing remarks 
on Latin prosody; on the faults of public speakers at the present 
day, with expressions of the kindest and most familiar interest in 
his friends and their concerns, written too in a strong close hand, 
that might be expected from one in middle life. 

In stature, he was of moderate height; his person neither spare 
nor corpulent, but indicating perfect health, and an easy mind. His 
head and features were large and impressive. He was not fond of 
bodily activity, and always walked with a regular, measured step, 
as if he were consulting his ease, as far as he could, in doing a 
thing for which he had small relish. His mind kept pace with the 
world ; his courtesy and hospitality could not have altered but for 
the worse; but his habits of life, bis dress, and many things that 
belong to one's comfort, and yet may not be worth enumerating, 
appear to have undergone little if any change for years, and to have 
shown, as well as the cast of his conversation, that he was of an- 
other generation. 

21 o2 


The Declaration of Independence was signed on behalf of th 3 
state of Connecticut by four delegates, Roger Sherman, Samuel 
Huntington, William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott. 

Among the illustrious characters whose names are inscribed upon 
the brightest record that adorns the annals of our country, few 
possessed more Solid attainments than the first of these, Roger 
Sherman. In the display of rhetorical embellishment, he had 
many superiors; but this inequality was amply compensated by the 
close reasoning and convincing arguments which justified the pro- 
priety of his political opinions, and supported those measures which 
his judgment pointed out as best adapted to promote the welfare of 
his country. The acuteness of his understanding, and the solidity 
of his judgment, were powerfully aided by his unremitting applica- 
tion, and intimate knowledge of human nature. Possessed of a 
strong, discriminating mind, and guided by the most rigid rules of 
prudence, his stern integrity and general good sense, together with 
his cautious perseverance, elevated him to a prominent station 
among the most successful politicians of his time, and gave him a 
great and merited ascendancy in the several deliberative bodies of 
which he was a member. 

His mind was early impressed with the truth of the Christian 
religion, and, faithful to its precepts, he passed through the turbu- 
lent and conflicting scenes of the revolution without a blemish on 
his character. 

Before he had attained the age of twenty-one years, he made a 
public profession of his religion, and continued more than half a 
century a zealous defender of its doctrines. Exemplary in his at- 
tention to the forms and discipline of the church to which he was 
attached, he evinced, by his conduct, the importance of the applica- 
tion of the moral doctrines of Christianity to the duties of social life. 

The father of Roger Sherman, was a farmer in moderate circum- 
stances, and resided at Newton, Massachusetts, where Roger Sher- 



man was born on the nineteenth day of April, 1721. Roger 
Sherman received no other education than the ordinary country 
schools in Massachusetts at that period afforded. He was neither 
assisted by a public education, nor private tuition, and the substan- 
tial abilities which he evinced during his public life were wholly the 
offspring of his own exertions. Without those advantages which, 
in early youth, are so essential in directing and impelling the mind 
to useful studies, and compelled to assiduous labour for a mainte- 
nance, his vigorous mind surmounted all the obstacles which his 
situation interposed, and, availing himself of every moment of 
leisure, he acquired, from self-instruction, an extensive knowledge 
and capacity of usefulness, which placed him on a level with his 
distinguished compatriots, who have received all the advantages of 

The nature of his early employment more decidedly claims our 
admiration in relation to his self-advancement in life, and the eager- 
ness which impelled him to prosecute his intellectual improvements. 
It is a remarkable fact, that the man who stood among the fore- 
most in the ranks of patriots and legislators, and served his country 
with distinguished ability in various high and honourable offices 
during a period of forty years, was apprenticed to a shoemaker, and 
pursued that occupation for some time after he was twenty-two 
years of age. Upon the removal of the family, in 1743, Mr. Slier 
man travelled, with his tools, on foot, to New Milford, where he 
continued to work at his trade for some time. 

Mr. Sherman was not one of those to whom the retrospect of past 
life gave any pain. During the revolutionary war, he was placed 
on a committee of congress to examine certain army accounts, 
among which was a contract for the supply of shoes. He informed 
the committee that the public had been defrauded, and that the 
charges were exorbitant, which he proved by specifying the cost of 
the leather and other materials, and of the workmanship. The 
minuteness with which this was done exciting some surprise, he in- 
formed the committee that he was by trade a shoemaker, and was 
perfectly acquainted with the cost of the article. 

At the time of his father's death, which occurred in the year 1741 , 
Mr. Sherman was only nineteen years of age; yet, from the absence 
of his elder brother, who had previously removed to New Milford in 
Connecticut, the principal charge of the family devolved upon him. 
At this early period of life, the care of his mother, who lived to a 
great age, and the education of a numerous family of brothers and 


sisters, brought into profitable action those feelings of filial piety 
and paternal affection, which are the unerring tokens of a virtuous 
and benevolent heart. The restrictions which had been placed on 
his own education, and the difficulties which they necessarily created, 
no doubt particularly impressed upon his mind the utility of liberal 
instruction in early life. The assistance subsequently afforded by 
him to two of his younger brothers, enabled them to obtain this in- 
calculable advantage, and they became clergymen of some eminence 
in the colony of Connecticut. 

In 1745, two years after his removal into the colony of Connecti- 
cut, he was appointed a surveyor of lands for the county in which 
he resided, which is proof of his early improvement in mathematical 
knowledge. His self-advancement in this important branch of edu- 
cation, so little connected with his actual occupations, or future 
prospects in life, serves to demonstrate the universal character of 
his studies, and the indefatigability of his literary ambition. Astro- 
nomical calculations of so early a date as the year 1748 have been 
discovered among his papers, made by him for an almanac then 
published in New York, and which he continued to supply for 
several successive years. In addition to these numerous vocations, 
his application to the study of the law must have been close and 
indefatigable, to enable him to surmount the disadvantages of his 
early education, and qualify himself for the profession which he was 
about to assume. 

At the age of twenty-eight years, he married Miss Elizabeth 
Hartwell, of Stoughton in Massachusetts, by whom he had seven 
children. She died in October, 1760. After his removal to New 
Haven, he married Miss Rebecca Prescot of Danvers, Massachu- 
setts, by whom he had eight children. 

Although he had not profited by a regular professional education, 
his acquisition of legal knowledge, and his increasing reputation 
as a counsellor, were so great and flattering, that he was persuaded 
by his friends to adopt the profession, and was accordingly admitted 
an attorney at law, in December, 1754. 

In 1755, he was placed in the commission of the peace for New 
Milford, and in the same year chosen by the freemen to represent 
them in the colonial assembly; an appointment which he continued 
to hold during the greater part of his residence in that town. 

He continued to pra;tise the law with reputation until May, 1759, 
when he was appointed judge of the court of Common Pleas for the 
county. In 1761, he removed from New Milford, where he was 


highly and universally respected, and settled in New Haven. He 
was soon made a justice of the peace for the county of New Haven, 
and frequently represented the town in the legislature. In 1765, 
he was appointed one of the judges of the court of Common Pleas, 
and was for many years the treasurer of the college in New Haven, 
receiving at that time the honorary degree of master of arts. 

In 1760, he was elected, by the freemen of the colony, an assist- 
ant; i. e. a member of the council, or upper house in the legislature 
of Connecticut. The assistants, who, with the governor and lieu- 
tenant-governor formed a separate branch in the legislature, were 
twelve in number. As they deliberated with closed doors, the 
measures proposed or advocated by particular individuals cannot 
now be ascertained, but they are considered to have acted with 
great unanimity in the common cause. 

The period of Mr. Sherman's election to the council, was pecu- 
liarly momentous: a partial revolution, about that time, took place 
in the colony, and several of the old members, who were suspected 
of not being sufficiently decided in their opposition to the new 
claims of the mother country, were obliged to retire, and give place 
to others who possessed different feelings. 

The definitive treaty of peace, signed in Paris on the tenth of 
February, 1763, infused great and universal joy among the English 
colonies in America. But the burthens and losses, particularly of 
the northern colonies, had been very great. New England, in 
general, had, during the war, ten thousand men in the field ; and 
for some years, Massachusetts and Connecticut alone furnished that 
number. The colonies probably sustained the loss of more than 
twenty thousand men, who were, generally, their bravest and most 
active young men ; the flower of the country. This loss was 
severely felt in New England, which had furnished much the great- 
est number of men, and by no colony more than by Connecticut. 

Mr. Sherman commenced his public life as a member of the legis- 
lature, in the same year (1755,) that hostilities began in America, 
and continued to serve in that situation during the greater part of 
the war. Being thus practically acquainted with the extraordinary 
exertions of Connecticut during that period, and her proportionate 
loss of blood and treasure, he was rendered more sensible of the 
oppressive measures of the British ministry, which almost imme- 
diately succeeded the return of peace. 

The power of parliament to tax the colonies, appears never to 
have been doubted by those who guided the councils of Great Bri- 


tain. An attempt had been made, previous to the French war, to 
confirm the supremacy of parliament, and its right to establish a 
system of internal taxation in this country. Had the attempt been 
then persisted in, it would probably have been for a time successful. 
The encroachments of the French had created universal alarm, and 
their influence with the numerous bands of Indians which surround- 
ed our frontier plainly evinced, that a declaration of war would be 
followed by all the horrors and devastations of savage hostility. 
Under such circumstances, and with feelings of attachment to the 
mother country yet unimpaired, although the measure would have 
occasioned great discontent, it would probably not have been openly 
resisted. But there were many in Great Britain who, although they 
admitted the right, had great doubts of the policy of the measure. 
The parent state possessed a monopoly of the colonial trade; that 
trade was becoming every day more extensive and lucrative to the 
mother country; any measures which had a tendency to create dis- 
turbances in the colonies would be prejudicial to it; and they were 
of opinion that the trifling sum which could be drawn from them 
by taxation, was not of sufficient consequence to justify an attempt 
which might interrupt that trade, and endanger the large debts 
owing by the colonies to British merchants. These reasons seem 
to have restrained the government from a direct attempt to enforce 
the right asserted by them at that period; but the pressure of the 
public debt of Great Britain at the close of the war with France, 
and the difficulty of providing funds for the payment of the interest, in- 
duced them soon after to adopt another policy, which laid the founda- 
tion of those disputes and animosities that severed the two countries. 
In 1764 commenced that series of measures which " tore asunder 
all the bonds of relationship and affection which had for ages sub- 
sisted, and planted almost inextinguishable hatred in bosoms where 
the warmest friendship had been so long cultivated." During all 
this conflicting period, Mr. Sherman continued an influential mem- 
ber of the council of Connecticut, and co-operated with his fellow- 
members in the general opposition to parliamentary supremacy. 
Although the secret sittings of that body preclude the detail of 
his services therein, and the precise rank which he held amongst 
his colleagues, we may fairly infer, from his appointment to the 
ofEce of judge of the superior court, in May, 17CC, that he emi- 
nently possessed the confidence of his fellow citizens; and this pre- 
ferment would not have been conferred on one who had not parti- 
cularly distinguished himself in the common cause. His seat in the 


council was not vacated by this appointment: he continued a mem- 
ber of it during nineteen years, at the expiration of which time a 
law was enacted, rendering the two offices incompatible. Mr. Sher- 
man preferred the station of judge, and continued in that office 
until the year 1789, when he resigned it in consequence of his elec- 
tion to congress under the federal constitution. It is uniformly 
acknowledged, by those who have witnessed his conduct and abili- 
ties on the bench, that he discovered, in the application of the prin- 
ciples of law, and the rules of evidence to the cases before him, the 
same sagacity that distinguished him as a legislator. 

In the controversy between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, in 
relation to a large tract of territory, granted to both and claimed 
by both, but finally yielded to Pennsylvania, Mr. Sherman greatly 
distinguished himself by his zeal and ability. The subject, however, 
rather belongs to history than to biography; and we forbear from 
following him through its details. 

In the controversy which arose between Great Britain and her 
colonies, Mr. Sherman was one of those who, from the commence- 
ment of hostilities, foresaw the necessity of our entire union and 
complete independence, and urged, with energy, the boldest and 
most decisive measures. He engaged in the defence of our liber- 
ties, not with the rash ardour of political enthusiasm, nor the ambi- 
tious zeal of a lover of popularity, but with the deliberate firmness 
of an experienced statesman, conscious of the magnitude of the 
undertaking, able to foresee dangers, resolute to meet them, and 
sagacious in devising the means of successful opposition. 

In August, 1774, the committee of correspondence nominated 
Mr. Sherman, in conjunction with Joseph Trumbull, Eliphalet Dyer, 
and Silas Deane, as proper persons to attend the general congress 
of the colonies, for the purpose of consulting and advising " on pro- 
per measures for advancing the best good of the colonies." Mr. 
Sherman, agreeably to this appointment, was present at the open 
ing of the first congress; and it is an honour of which few can 
boast, that he invariably continued a member of congress until his 
death in 1793, embracing the long period of nineteen years, when- 
ever the law, requiring a rotation in office, admitted it. 

It is impossible to enumerate the various services rendered by 
Mr. Sherman during his congressional career. The novel and re- 
sponsible situation to which he was now elevated, was well calcu- 
lated to elicit the firmness of his character, and the comprehensive- 
ness of his political sagacity. Although he united his efforts to 


those of the assembled representatives, in their honest endeavours 
to preserve at once the peace of the country, and the rights of its 
citizens, he appears to have been decidedly convinced, that nothing 
but unconditional submission could avert the horrors of civil war; 
and he fully evinced, by the energetic measures which he zealously 
supported, that, in his opinion, it was far preferable to endure sor- 
row for a season, than sink into a long and degrading servitude. 

As a representative and senator in congress, he appeared with 
distinguished reputation. Others were more admired for brilliancy 
of imagination, splendour of eloquence, and the graces of polished 
society; but there were few, even in that assemblage of eminent 
characters, whose judgment was more respected, or whose opinions 
were more influential. The boldness of his counsels, the decisive 
weight of his character, the steadiness of his principles, the inflexi- 
bility of his patriotism, his venerable appearance, and his republican 
manners, presented to the imagination the idea of a Roman senator, 
in the early and most exemplary days of the commonwealth. 

In the business of committees, generally so arduous and fatiguing, 
he was undoubtedly one of the most serviceable and indefatigable 
members of that body. His unwearied application, the remarkable 
perseverance with which he pursued and completed the matters con- 
fided to his investigation, and the regular system by which all his 
proceedings were governed, when joined to his great prudence, 
acknowledged talents, and unshaken virtue, attracted universal con- 
fidence; hence a large and important share of the public business, 
particularly when referred to committees, was assigned to him, in 
conjunction with other leading members of the house. 

On the tenth of May, 1775, Mr. Sherman again appeared as one of 
the delegates from Connecticut, having been re-elected by the house 
of representatives of that colony, on the third of November, 1774. 

Among the principal committees, of which Mr. Sherman was a 
member during the year 1776, were those to prepare instructions 
for the operations of the army in Canada; to establish regulations 
and restrictions on the trade of the United Colonies; to regulate the 
currency of the country ; to purchase and furnish supplies for the 
army; to devise ways and means for providing ten millions of dol- 
lars for the expenses of the current year; to concert a plan of mili- 
tary operations for the campaign of 1776; to prepare and digest a 
form of confederation ; to repair to head-quarters, near New York, 
and examine into the state of the army, and the best means of sup- 
plying their wants, &c. &c. &c. 


The duty assigned to him, (September 20th, 1776,) relative to 
the state of the arm}', was arduous and distressing. On the twenty- 
fourth of that month, General Washington, in a communication to 
congress, exhibited, in a serious and solemn manner, the critical 
situation of America, the approaching dissolution of the army by 
the expiration of the time for which the troops had been engaged, 
and their urgent distresses and increasing dissatisfaction. 

Every principle of sound policy had required, that, as the conti- 
nuance of the war was inevitable, it should be conducted in a differ- 
ent manner, and that the character of the parties should be changed: 
it was, indeed, a wise and well-timed measure to destroy the rela- 
tions of king and subject, by the Declaration of Independence, and 
thereby alter not only the name but the nature of the contest. On 
the eleventh of June, 1770, the high confidence placed in the abili- 
ties of Mr. Sherman was again amply proved by his appointment, 
in conjunction with that brilliant constellation of talents and patriot- 
ism, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Livingston, to prepare the 
Declaration of Independence. 

Besides the incidental business in which his services as a com- 
mittee-man were employed, he was successively a member of the 
board of war and ordnance, of the marine committee, and of the 
board of treasury. His financial knowledge, and systematic atten- 
tion to the most rigorous rides of frugality in relation to public ex- 
penditures, which might appear inconsistent with the character and 
expanded views of more modern statesmen, was, in that day of 
national poverty and peril, of primary importance, and proved, in 
the aggregate, essentially beneficial to the interests of the country. 

Notwithstanding his almost constant attention at the post of duty 
in the general congress, the citizens of Connecticut continued to 
load their distinguished representative with additional honours, and 
to testify, in the most flattering manner, their strong sense of his 
worth, virtues, and abilities. He was, during the war, a member 
of the governor's council of safety; and in February, 1784, when 
city privileges were granted to New Haven, he was elected to the 
office of mayor, which he held during the remainder of his life. 

At the close of the revolutionary war, it became necessary to 
revise the statutes of Connecticut, and in May, 1783, Mr. Sherman, 
and the honourable Richard Law, both judges of the superior court, 
were appointed a committee, with instructions to digest all the sta- 
tutes relating to the same subject, into one ; to reduce the whole to 
a regular code, in alphabetical order, with such alterations, addi- 
22 P 


tions, exclusions and amendments, as they should deem expedient, 
and to submit the same to the general assembly. This arduous ser- 
vice was performed with great approbation ; the temporary and 
repealed statutes were omitted; the arrangement was simplified 
and improved; and many valuable emendations and additions were 

In 1787, he was appointed, by the state of Connecticut, a dele- 
gate to the general convention to form the federal constitution of 
the United States, in conjunction with Mr. Ellsworth and Dr. John- 
son. The inefficacy of the old confederation for the preservation of 
the public peace, became palpable soon after the close of the war, 
when the strong and general excitement which existed during the 
struggle for independence, and bound the several states in close unity 
together, had yielded to less patriotic, and more selfish, considera- 
tions. The powers vested in the several states were too great to 
afford any prospect of permanent union, and it was only by the for- 
mation of a supreme head, to direct the clashing measures, guard 
the opposing interests, and coerce the ill-advised and dangerous 
views of the several subordinate governments, that the indepen- 
dence and tranquillity which had succeeded one of the noblest efforts 
recorded in the political history of the world, could be preserved. 
It appears that Mr. Sherman discovered, at an early date, many 
radical defects in the old confederation, although he was a member 
of the committee by which it had been framed. A manuscript left 
among his papers, and containing a series of propositions prepared 
by him for the amendment of the old articles of confederation, the 
greater part of which are incorporated, in substance, in the new 
constitution, displays the important part which he acted in the gene- 
ral convention of 1787. 

Mr. Sherman advocated several propositions in the convention, in 
which he signally failed; and in some of them, perhaps, fortunately 
for the durability of the government. He wished the house of re- 
presentatives to be chosen by the state legislatures, saying, " the 
people should have as little to do as may be with the government : 
they want information, and are constantly liable to be misled." He 
advocated regulating the ratio of representatives by the free inha- 
bitants only. He opposed the resolution introduced by Mr. Gerry, 
that the number of representatives from the new states should never 
exceed in numbers those from the originai states, and was in favour 
of admitting western states on liberal terms; as we were, he said, 
in doing so, " providing for our children and grand-children, wh<: 


>vere as likely to be residents of the new as the old states." In dis- 
cussing the eligibility of foreigners to office, he observed that " the 
United States had not invited foreigners, nor pledged their faith 
that they should enjoy the same privileges with natives, and have a 
perfect right to make any discriminations they may judge necessary. 
He was in favour of an absolute prohibition, in the constitution, of 
paper money; and said if the state legislatures could authorize issuing 
it, speculators would use every kind of intrigue and corruption to get 
an ascendency in the legislature, in order to control its emission for 
selfish purposes. 

Mr. Sherman was not present at the opening, nor his colleague, 
Mr. Ellsworth, at the close, of the convention. Their absence was 
owing to necessity; both being judges of the superior court, the 
presence of one of them was requisite at each of those periods. 

Many members of that august body, and among others, General 
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, have borne testimony to the very 
considerable part which Mr. Sherman took in the convention. The 
correspondence which passed between him and the honourable John 
Adams, relative to the federal constitution, must have been highly 
interesting, from the zealous feelings of the respective writers on 
the subject, and the experience and abilities which enabled them to 
expatiate with clearness and precision upon a document, which, 
with the sole exception of the Declaration of Independence, ranks 
foremost in the records of our political existence ; which, if defeated, 
or rendered ineffectual by discord, would have probably rendered 
that Declaration, in a certain degree, unavailable; and which, as it 
now subsists, will continue to uphold the great and glorious structure 
which rests upon its basis. 

Happily for our fathers, and happily for their posterity, the ob- 
stacles which threatened the rejection of the constitution were over- 
come, and the prophetic language of Mr. Sherman is now verified 
by twenty millions. 

His exertions in procuring the ratification of that constitution by 
the State Convention of Connecticut, were conspicuous and suc- 
cessful. He published a series of papers, with the signature of " A 
Citizen," which are said to have materially influenced the public 
mind in favour of its adoption; a fact which is corroborated by the 
testimony of the late Chief Justice Ellsworth. The full majority by 
which the ratification was determined in the convention of Con- 
necticut, is stated, by a living witness, to have been owing, in a 
considerable degree, to the influence and arguments of Mr. Slier- 


man. The instrument was discussed by sections, and the delegates 
to the general convention were required to explain their operation, 
as they successively came under consideration : this task was uni- 
formly performed by him with great plainness and perspicuity. 

After the ratification and adoption of the federal constitution, he 
was elected a representative of the state in congress, and on the 
eighth of April the oath required by that instrument was adminis- 
tered to him by the chief justice of the state of New York. As this 
office was then incompatible with his station as a judge, he resigned 
the latter, which he had held with unblemished reputation during 
twenty-three years. 

Although verging towards the seventieth year of his age, Mr. 
Sherman's exertions, and interest in public affairs, continued undi 
minished. During the first two years of the sessions of congress 
under the new constitution, at the expiration of which he was ele- 
vated to the senate, he took an active part in the proceedings of 
that body. His sentiments, which were of great weight, were prin- 
cipally delivered in favour of an excise law, prudently and con- 
siderately administered ; of a duty on merchandize, rather than a 
direct tax; of the existing mode of reporting plans by the secretary 
of the treasury; of the propriety of appointing peculiar days of 
thanksgiving; of the commitment of the memorial of Friends, or 
Quakers, in relation to the abolition of slavery; of the assump- 
tion of the state debts; of the lights of conscience relative to bear- 
ing arms, &c. He strenuously opposed any discrimination in our 
relations .with foreigners, urging that commercial restrictions should 
be met by commercial restrictions; but that the commerce of this 
nation with any others, ought not to be laid under any disadvan- 
tages merely because we had no commercial treaty with them. 
The proper principle, he maintained, upon which government should 
act, was the impost of heavy duties upon all goods coining from 
any port or territory, to which the vessels of the United States were 
denied access. 

After the exposition which has been given of the character and 
feelings of Mr. Sherman, it is almost superfluous to state that he 
was uniformly and conscientiously opposed to the slave trade. Soon 
after the commencement of the first session of congress, Mr. Parker, 
of Virginia, made an effort to discountenance that inhuman traffic, 
by moving the insertion of a clause in the impost bill, then under 
consideration, imposing a duty on the importation of slaves of ten 
dollars on each individual. His exertions were confined to this 


narrow compass by the fifth article of the new constitution, which 
deprived congress of any power to prohibit the importation of slaves 
before the expiration of twenty-one years ; but the first clause of 
the ninth section of the first article authorized the imposition of a 
duty on each person, not exceeding the amount proposed by Mr. 
Parker. Although Mr. Sherman fully approved of the object of the 
motion, he could not reconcile himself to the insertion of human 
beings, as an article of duty, among goods, wares, and merchandize. 
He considered the principles of the motion, and those of the bill, as 
inconsistent; the purpose of the first was to raise a revenue, and of 
the latter, to correct a moral evil; and, therefore, he believed that 
the motion ought, on the principles both of humanity and policy, to 
be separately considered. Notwithstanding the exertions of their 
opponents — men who had themselves so lately shaken off the yoke 
of servitude — Mr. Sherman and his colleagues were triumphant, 
and the question was favourably determined, forty-three members 
having supported, and only eleven opposed, the commitment of the 

In the course of the debate on the impost bill, (May 9th, 1789,) 
several members had recourse to popular opinion in support of their 
arguments, which drew from Mr. Sherman the following remarks : 
"Popular opinion is founded in justice, and the only way to know 
if the popular opinion is in favour of a measure, is to examine 
whether it is just and right in itself. I believe that whatever is just 
and right, the people will judge of and comply with. The people 
wish that the government may derive respect from the justice of 
its measures, and they have given it support on that account. I 
believe the popular opinion is in favour of raising a revenue to pay 
our debts, and if we do right, they will not neglect their duty ; there- 
fore, the arguments that are urged in favour of a low duty, will 
prove that the people are contented with what the bill proposes. 
When gentlemen have recourse to public opinion to support their 
arguments, they generally find means to accommodate it to their 
own: the reason why I think public opinion is in favour of the present 
measure, is because this regulation, in itself, is reasonable and just." 

He uniformly and zealously opposed those amendments of the 
constitution which were, at different periods, submitted to the house, 
almost immediately after its adoption. He maintained that the 
more important objects of government ought first to be attended 
to; and that the executive portion of it needed organization, as 
well as the business of the revenue, and of the judiciary. His 


endeavours, however, to postpone the consideration of these amend- 
ments, until the more important matters of government were 
arranged, and experience had tested the efficacy, and weak points, 
of the constitution, were unsuccessful. He then directed his at- 
tention to the mode of amendment proposed, and earnestly opposed 
the insertion, or abstraction, of any part whatever, of the original 
instrument. " We ought not," he exclaimed, " to interweave our 
propositions in the work itself, because it will be destructive of the 
whole fabric. We might as well endeavour to mix brass, iron, and 
clay, as to incorporate such heterogeneous articles ; the one contra- 
dictory to the other. Its absurdity will be discovered by comparing 
it with a law: would any legislature endeavour to introduce into a 
former act a subsequent amendment, and let them stand so con- 
nected? When an alteration is made in an act, it is done by way 
of supplement; the latter act always repealing the former in every 
specified case of difference." 

A proposition having been made to introduce a clause into the 
constitution, conferring upon the people the unalienable right of in- 
structing their representatives, Mr. Sherman opposed it with great 
justice and ability. He urged that it would mislead the people by 
conveying an idea that they possessed the right of controlling the 
debates of the legislature, a right destructive to the object of their 
meeting ; that the duty of a representative was to consult, and agree 
with others, from the different parts of the union, relative to such 
acts as might be beneficial to the whole community ; that, if they 
were to be guided by instructions, there would be no use in delibe- 
ration, and a representative would consider nothing more necessary 
than to produce those instructions, lay them on the table, and let 
them speak for him ; that the duty of a good representative was to 
inquire what measures would best tend to promote the general wel- 
fare, and, after he had discovered, to give them his support; that, 
if his instructions should coincide with his ideas of any measure, 
they would be unnecessary, and, if they were contrary to the con- 
viction of his own mind, he would be bound by every principle of 
justice to disregard them. Hence he considered it a fixed doctrine, 
that the right of the people to consult for the common good, can go 
no further than to petition the legislature for a redress of grievances. 
His opinion was confirmed by a large majority. 

Mr. Sherman strongly advocated the funding system reported by 
Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury, and particularly the 
assumption of the state debts, which formed a part of it. 


In 1791, a vacancy having occurred in the senate of the United 
States, he was elected to fill that elevated station, in which he con- 
tinued to devote his time and talents to the benefit of that govern- 
ment whose cause he had firmly espoused, and whose independence 
he had fearlessly proclaimed, fifteen years before. 

On the twenty-third day of July, 1793, this great and good man 
was gathered to his fathers, after a long life of usefulness and vir- 
tue. He sustained many and important offices with uniform honour 
and reputation; he maintained an amiable character in every pri- 
vate relation ; and he died in a ripe old age, fully possessed of all 
his honours and of his powers, both of mind and body. The loss 
of such a man was indeed great. It was great to the whole country, 
for he was still capable of eminent usefulness; it was great to the 
state of Connecticut, in whose service he had, for half a century, 
been indefatigable ; it was great to the city of New Haven, of which 
he was the chief magistrate; it was still greater to the church and 
the society of which he was so eminent and useful a member; but 
greatest of all to his bereaved family. 

The genius and talents of Mr. Sherman were particularly calcu- 
lated for eminent usefulness in the judiciary department. Cool, at- 
tentive, deliberate, and impartial, skilled in all the forms and prin- 
ciples of law, he was not liable to be misled by the arts of sophistry, 
or the warmth of declamation. He formed his opinions on a care- 
ful examination of every subject, and delivered them with dignity 
and perspicuity. His decisions were too firmly founded on correct 
and admitted principles to be readily shaken, and he necessarily 
enjoyed, in his important judicial station, a confidence and esteem, 
highly honourable to himself, as well as to the professional gentle- 
men by whom those sentiments were entertained. 

The foundation of his usefulness as a man, and his distinction as 
a statesman, was integrity, which, at an early period, formed one 
of the principal groundworks of his character, and was founded 
upon religious principle. All his actions seem to have been pre- 
ceded by a rigorous self-examination, and the secret interrogatories 
of " What is right?" — " What course ought I to pursue?" He never 
propounded to himself the questions of " How will it affect my in- 
terest?" — " Will it be popular?" Hence his reputation for integrity 
was so unquestionable, that, in all the various decisions of public 
questions in which he had a voice, it is not probable that any man 
suspected him of a selfish bias, or of sinister motives, however 
strongly he may have been opposed to the measures which Mr. Slier- 


man considered it his duty to support. Many anecdotes attest the 
unbounded confidence which was entertained for the judgment of 
Mr. Sherman. Fisher Ames was accustomed to express his opinion 
by saying, " That if he happened to be out of his seat when a sub- 
ject was discussed, and came in when the question was about to be 
taken, he always felt safe in voting as Mr. Sherman did; for he 
always voted right." The late Dr. Spring, of Newburyport, was 
returning from the south, while congress was sitting in Philadelphia. 
Mr. Jefferson accompanied him to the hall, and designated several 
distinguished members of that body : in the course of this polite 
attention, he pointed in a certain direction, and exclaimed, " That 
is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish 
thing in his life." Mr. Macon once remarked to Mr. Reed, of Mar- 
blehead, formerly a member of congress, that "Roger Sherman 
had more common sense than any man he ever knew." Washing- 
ton uniformly treated Mr. Sherman with great respect and attention, 
and gave undoubted proof that he regarded his public services as 
eminently valuable. 

A patriot, to whose virtues, talents, and integrity, the three first 
presidents of the United States, Washington, Adams, and Jef- 
ferson, and the wisest and best men of the land, have paid the 
tribute of esteem and respect, cannot fail to live long in the hearts 
of his countrymen. In a communication received by the editor, 
from the venerable John Adams, dated the nineteenth of November, 
1822, that distinguished statesman thus expresses his sentiments in 
relation to Mr. Sherman: 

"Dear Sir — I have received your obliging favour of the fifteenth 
instant. It relates to a subject dear to my memory and to my heart. 
The honourable Roger Sherman was one of the most cordial friends 
which I ever had in my life. Destitute of all literary and scientific 
education but such as he acquired by his own exertions, he was one 
of the most sensible men in the world. The clearest head and the 
steadiest heart. It is praise enough to say, that the late Chief Jus- 
tice Ellsworth told me that he had made Mr. Sherman his model in 
his youth. Indeed, I never knew two men more alike, except that 
the chief justice had the advantage of a liberal education, and some- 
what more extensive reading. 

" Mr. Sherman was born in the state of Massachusetts, and was 
one of the soundest and strongest pillars of the revolution." 

The testimony of Mr. Jefferson is not less emphatic: in a letter 
of the ninth of March, 1822, addressed by that eminent citizen to 


the grandson of Mr. Sherman, ho fully unites in the eulogiuins which 
appear universally and deservedly to have been lavished on the sub- 
ject of this sketch : 

"I have duly received," he says, "your letter of February twenty- 
second, and am sorry it is in my power to furnish no other materials 
for the biography of your very respectable grandfather, than such as 
are very generally known. I served with him in the old congress, 
in the years 1775 and 1776: he was a very able and logical debater 
in that body, steady in the principles of the revolution, always at the 
post of duty, much employed in the business of committees, and, 
particularly, was of the committee of Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, 
Mr. Livingston, and myself, for preparing the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. Being much my senior in years, our intercourse was 
chiefly in the line of our duties. I had a very great respect for 
him, and now learn, with pleasure, that the public are likely to be 
put in possession of the particulars of his useful life." 

It ought to be recorded in the biography of this eminent and ex- 
cellent man, that although he sustained so many different stations 
in civil government, to all of which he was promoted by the free 
election of his fellow citizens, and in the greater part of which lie 
could not, without a new election, continue longer than a year, and 
in the remainder he could not, without re-appointment, continue 
longer than two, three, or four years; — and, although, for all these 
stations, there were, as will always be the case in popular govern- 
ments, many competitors at every election; — yet Mr. Sherman was 
never removed from a single office, except by promotion, or by act 
of the legislature, requiring a rotation, or rendering the offices in- 
compatible with each other. Nor, with the restrictions alluded to, 
did he ever fail in his re-election to any situation to which he had 
been once elected, excepting that of representative of New Haven 
in the legislature of the state; which office, at that period, was con- 
stantly fluctuating. Few facts can more decisively show how emi- 
nently and invariably he possessed the confidence of his fellow 

In regard to worldly circumstances, Mr. Sherman was very hap- 
pily situated. Beginning life without the aid of patrimonial wealth 
or powerful connexions; with nothing but his good sense and good 
principles; he, by his industry and skilful management, always 
lived in a comfortable manner, and his property was gradually in- 
creasing. He was never grasping nor avaricious, but liberal in feel- 
ing; and, in proportion to his means, liberal in acts of beneficence 


and hospitality. His manner of living was in accordance with the 
strictest republican simplicity. 

In private life, although he was habitually reserved and taciturn, 
yet in conversation relating to matters of importance, he was free 
and communicative. He was naturally modest ; and this disposi- 
tion, increased, perhaps, by the deficiences of his early education, 
often wore the appearance of bashfulness. In large companies, it 
is said, he appeared obviously embarrassed, and his speech was 
often slow and hesitating. 

In his person, Mr. Sherman was considerably above the common 
stature: his form was erect and well-proportioned, his complexion 
very fair, and his countenance manly and agreeable, indicating mild- 
ness, benignity, and decision. He did not neglect those smaller 
matters, without the observance of which a high station cannot be 
sustained with propriety and dignity. In his dress, he was plain, 
but remarkably neat; and in his treatment of men of every class, 
he was universally affable and obliging. In the private relations of 
husband, father, and friend, he was uniformly kind, affectionate, 
faithful, and constant. 

"In short," to use the language of the Rev. Dr. Edwards, 
"whether we consider him in public or private life — whether we 
consider him as a politician, or a Christian — he was a great and a 
good man. The words of David concerning Abner, may, with great 
truth, be applied on this occasion ; know ye not, that there is a great 
man fallen this day in Israel." 




Samuel Huntington was the descendant of an ancient and re- 
spectable family, which emigrated at an early period into this coun- 
try, and landed at Saybrook, in the province of Connecticut. His 
father, Nathaniel Huntington, was a plain, but worthy farmer, who 
followed his occupation in the town of Windham : his mother was 
distinguished for piety and native talent. Being the eldest son, he 
was destined by his parents to pursue an humble, but certain course 
of life, by tilling the earth under the auspices of his father. 

He was born in Windham, Connecticut, on the third day of July, 
1732. His opportunities of acquiring knowledge were extremely 
limited, and he received no other education than the common schools 
of Connecticut at that period afforded. Gifted, however, with an 
excellent understanding, and a strong taste for mental improvement, 
he employed all his leisure hours in reading and study. At the age 
of twenty-two years, when he abandoned his agricultural pursuits 
to engage in the study of the law, he had acquired, principally from 
his own unassisted exertions, an excellent common education. In 
the knowledge of the Latin language, his progress was considerable, 
but it does not appear that he directed his attention to any other 
foreign tongue. Having attained a competent knowledge of the 
general principles of law, he commenced his professional career in 
the town of Windham. In 1760, he removed to Norwich: at this 
period his reputation as a man of talents became more extensive, 
and his success and celebrity as a lawyer and an advocate, made a 
correspondent progress. Aided by a candid and deliberate manner, 
which appeared in some degree constitutional, few lawyers enjoyed a 
more extensive practice, or attracted more general applause. From 
his good sense, intelligence, and integrity, his preferment was remark- 
ably rapid : in a few years his character as a man of business and 
punctuality was firmly established; his reputation as a lawyer was 



exalted, and his extensive practice included all the important cases 
of his native county, as well as of those which bordered upon it. 

In the thirtieth year of his age he married Martha, the daughter 
of the Rev. Ebenezer Devotion. The consequence of this conjugal 
relation, although no offspring cemented the union, was the enjoy- 
ment of pure domestic felicity, until the decease of Mrs. Hunting- 
ton. Economical and exemplary in their habits, they, in some 
degree, avoided all society excepting that which courted their atten- 
tion. Having no offspring, Mr. Huntington adopted two of the 
children of his brother, the Rev. Joseph Huntington, to whom, hav- 
ing married sisters, he was doubly united. The late Samuel Hunt- 
ington, governor of Ohio, and Mrs. Griffin, the wife of the Rev. 
Dr. Griffin, president of William's College in Massachusetts, were 
the fortunate individuals who supplied the deficiency in his family, 
and profited by his excellent example and instructions. Mrs. Hunt- 
ington died on the fourth of June, 1794, in the fifty-sixth year of 
her age. 

In 1764, Mr. Huntington commenced his political labours as a 
representative of the town of Norwich in the general assembly ; and 
in the following year, received the office of king's attorney, which 
he sustained with reputation until more important services induced 
him to relinquish it. In 1774, he was appointed an associate judge 
in the superior court, and in the following year, a member of the 
council of Connecticut. 

Being decided in his opposition to the claims and oppressions of 
the British parliament, and active in his exertions in favour of the 
colonies, the general assembly of Connecticut, properly appreciating 
his talents and patriotism, appointed him a delegate to congress, on 
the second Thursday of October, 1775. On the sixteenth of January, 

1776, he took his seat in that venerable assembly, and in the subse- 
quent month of July, voted in favour of the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence. In this high station, he devoted his talents and time to the 
public service, during several successive years. His stern integrity, 
and inflexible patriotism, rendered him a prominent member, and 
attracted a large share of the current business of the house: as a 
member of numerous important committees, he acted with judg- 
ment and deliberation, and cheerfully and perseveringly dedicated 
his moments of leisure to the general benefit of the country. He 
zealously performed the duties of this office during the years 1776, 

1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780, when he returned to Connecticut, and 


resumed his station upon the bench, and seat in the council, which 
had been continued vacant until his return. 

The estimation in which Mr. Huntington was held by his fellow 
members, may be properly appreciated from his appointment, on 
the twenty-eighth of September, 1779, to the highest civil dignity 
of the country. On the resignation of the honourable John Jay, 
who had been appointed minister plenipotentiary to negotiate a 
treaty of amity and commerce, and of alliance, between the United 
States of America and his Catholic majesty, Mr. Huntington was 
elected president of congress : in 1780, he was re-elected to the 
same honourable office, which he continued to fill with dignity and 
impartiality until the following year, when, worn out by the con- 
stant cares of public life, and his unremitting application to his offi- 
cial duties, he desired leave of absence, and intimated to the house 
the necessity of his returning home for the re-establishment of his 
health. The nomination of his successor was, however, postponed 
by congress, which appeared unwilling to dispense with the services 
of a president, whose practical worth had been so long and amply 
displayed. After the expiration of two months, Mr. Huntington, 
on the sixth of July, 1781, more explicitly declared that his ill state 
of health would not permit him to continue longer in the exercise 
of the duties of that office, and renewed his application for leave 
of absence. His resignation was then accepted, and Samuel John- 
son, of North Carolina, declining the appointment, Thomas M'Kean, 
of Pennsylvania, was elevated to the presidency. A few days after 
his retirement, the thanks of congress were presented to Mr. Hunt- 
ington, "in testimony of their approbation of his conduct in the 
chair, and in the execution of public business." 

After having thus pursued his congressional career with distin- 
guished success, rising hy the energy of his own mind and the per- 
severance of self-instruction, from the plough to the presidency, 
Mr. Huntington, in August, 1781, resumed his judicial functions in 
the superior court of Connecticut, and his station in the council of 
that state. His rapid exaltation had not proved prejudicial to his 
mind or manners, but he returned to his constituents in the same 
plain and unassuming character which had first attracted their con- 
fidence and admiration. 

On the second Thursday in May, 1782, he was again elected a 
delegate to congress, but it does not appear that he joined his col- 
leagues in that body during the year for which he was then ap- 


pointed. Having been re-appointed on the second Thursday of 
Slay, 1783, he resumed his seat in congress on the following twenty- 
ninth of July, soon after the disorderly and menacing appearance 
of a number of armed mutineers about the hall within which that 
body was assembled in Philadelphia, had induced them, for the pre- 
servation of the safety and dignity of the federal government, to 
remove to Princeton in New Jersey.* He continued, without inter- 
mission, to perform his duties in congress until its adjournment to 
Annapolis on the fourth of November, 1783, when he finally retired 
from the great council of the nation, of which he had so long been 
a conspicuous and influential member. 

In 1784, soon after his return from congress, he was appointed 
chief justice of the superior court of Connecticut, and after dis- 
charging the duties of that office for one year, was elected lieu- 
tenant-governor of the state. Having at all times a perfect com- 
mand over his passions, he presided on the bench with great ability 
and impartiality: no judge in Connecticut was more dignified in his 
deportment, more courteous and polite to the gentlemen of the bar, 
nor more respected by the particular parties interested in the pro- 
ceedings of the court, as well as the public in general. His name 

* This was altogether one of the strangest affairs that occurred during the whole 
of the revolution. That eighty worthless vagabonds, who had never done other 
service than eat the beef and drink the whiskey of congress, incited and led by an 
Irishman with no other character than that which he had earned as a mutineer in 
the Pennsylvania line, should /n'g/itc?i.congress out of town, and the brave Colonel 
Hamilton to exhort the members to "prepare for immediate death — for in less than 
half an hour not a man of them would be left alive" is really strange, but not the 
less true. General St. Clair, then in command in Philadelphia, the executive 
council of Pennsylvania, and the militia officers of the city however, took matters 
more coolly. They assured a committee of congress appointed to confer with 
them, that there was nothing to fear, and that the soldiers were objects of com- 
passion rather than of terror or resentment — had everything settled in a satisfactory 
manner, and congress, in a short time, returned to, and resumed their labours in, 
Philadelphia. Sullivan, the would-be leader of the movement, to avoid the halter, 
fled and got on board a vessel ready for sea at Chester, and was not heard of again 
for about four years, when we find him busily engaged in writing letters to some 
of the disbanded officers of the army, endeavouring to prevail on them to join him 
in establishing "the free state of Franklin" on the Mississippi river, and appro- 
priating a large extent of country to themselves and their followers. But in this 
audacious attempt he was also foiled : congress, as soon as they became acquainted 
with his proceedings, ordered, that if he came within the federal territory, he 
should be apprehended, tried, and if found guilty (as he certainly would have been) 
hung ; and this, fortunately for the country, was the last that was ever heard of 
Lieutenant Sullivan. 


and his virtues are frequently mentioned by those who remember 
him in his judicial capacity, with respect and veneration. 

In 1786, he succeeded Governor Griswold, as chief magistrate 
of the state, and continued to be annually re-elected, with singular 
unanimity, until his death. This excellent man and undeviating 
patriot died in Norwich, on the fifth day of January, 1796, in the 
sixty-fourth year of his age. Although afflicted with a complication 
of disorders, particularly ffie dropsy in the chest, his death was 
tranquil and exemplary, and previous to the singular debility both 
of mind and body under which he laboured a few days before that 
event, his religious confidence continued firm and unwavering. In 
his person, Mr. Huntington was of the common stature; his com- 
plexion dark, and his eye bright and penetrating: his manners 
were somewhat formal, and he possessed a peculiar faculty of re- 
pressing impertinence, repelling unpleasant advances, and keeping 
aloof from the criticising observations of the multitude. But in the 
social circle of relatives and friends, he was a pleasing and enter- 
taining companion. Without inflicting upon others the conscious- 
ness of inferiority, he never descended from the dignity of his 

His deportment in domestic life was excellent ; his temper serene ; 
and his disposition benevolent. The whole tenor of his conversation 
was ingratiating and exemplary ; and although sometimes absorbed 
in deep meditation, he was generally friendly, cheerful, and social. 
Being a man of great simplicity and plainness of manners, he was 
averse to all pageantry and parade, and strictly economical in his 
expenditures: he maintained that it was a public duty to exhibit 
such an example as might, so far as his individual efforts could 
avail, counteract the spirit of extravagance which had begun to 

Mr. Huntington was a man of profound thought and penetration, 
of great prudence and practical wisdom, of patient investigation and 
singular perseverance, of distinguished moderation and equanimity: 
he was cool and deliberate, moderate and circumspect in all his 
actions, and possessed of a clear and sound mind. It may truly be 
said that no man ever possessed greater mildness or equanimity 
than Mr. Huntington. A living witness can attest, that during a long 
residence of twenty-four years in his family, he never, in a single 
instance, exhibited the slightest symptoms of anger, nor spoke one 
word calculated to wound the feelings of another, or to injure an 


absent person. He was the friend of order and of religion, a mem- 
ber of the Christian church, and punctual in the devotions of the 

But the eulogy of words can never exalt the memory which is not 
previously embalmed, in the progress of an exemplary life. For 
many years a professor of religion, Mr. Huntington appeared to 
enjoy great satisfaction both in the doctrines and ordinances of the 
gospel ; a constant attendant upon pimlic worship, " he was occa- 
sionally the people's mouth to God, when destitute of preaching." 
As a professor of Christianity, and supporter of its institutions, he 
was exemplary and devout: he manifested an unshaken faith in its 
doctrines, amid the distresses of declining life, until debility of mind 
and body, produced by his last illness, rendered him incapable of 
social intercourse. 


William Williams was born in the town of Lebanon, Wind- 
ham county, in the province of Connecticut, on the eighth of April, 
1731. He was descended from an ancient family, of Welsh ex- 
traction, a branch of which emigrated into America in the year 
1630, and settled in Roxborough, Massachusetts. His grandfather, 
William Williams, was the minister of Hatfield, in Hampshire 
county, Massachusetts, and his father, the Rev. Solomon Williams, 
D.D., was, during the long period of fifty-four years, the pastor 
of the first congregational society in Lebanon. 

William Wlliams was sixteen years of age when he entered 
Harvard college, in the year 1747. During the course of his studies, 
he displayed a large portion of talents and perseverance, and pur- 
suing his collegiate career with diligence and distinction, was 
honourably graduated in the year 1751. He then returned to 
Lebanon, and resided more than a year with his father, who di- 
rected his studies, which were principally theological: his fellow 
students were numerous, who profited by the instructions as well as 
the extensive library of his father. 

In the year 1755, during the French war, he attended his relative, 
Colonel Ephraim Williams, as one of the staff of his regiment, on 
an expedition to Lake George. At the close of the campaign, Mr. 
Williams returned to Lebanon. He was, at this period, twenty- 
four years of age, and resolved to establish his residence in his 
native town. He returned dissatisfied and disgusted with the British 
commanders: their haughtiness and arbitrary conduct, and their in- 
attention to the interests of America, made a powerful and lasting 
impression upon his mind. Even at that early period, he formed 
the opinion that the prosperity of his native country would never be 
secured under the administration of officers who had no common 
interests nor feelings with the people; and that to enable them to 
profit by the means within their reach, a government dependent on 
themselves was necessary. 

24 q> 2 249 


The youth as well as the maturer age of Mr. Williams were cha- 
racterized by his fondness for mechanical pursuits. In architecture 
he was particularly interested : nor was he inattentive to the study of 
mathematics, and the learned languages, and, at an advanced period 
of life, he was still a proficient in the Greek and Latin languages. 

At the age of twenty-five years he commenced his political career 
as town clerk, to which situation he was annually elected during the 
long period of forty-five years. He was chosen, about the same 
time, to represent the town in the general assembly of Connecticut, 
although it was, at that period, unusual to select so young a man 
to fill that responsible station. He was soon after appointed a jus- 
tice of the peace. It may almost be said that he was invariably, 
during the course of his long and useful life, a member of one of the 
branches of the legislature. During his services in that body, he 
was chosen clerk, and for many years speaker, of the house of re- 
presentatives. In the year 1780, he was elected an assistant or 
counsellor, and was annually re-elected for twenty-four years until 
he resigned the office in 1804, at which period he yielded up all his 
public employments, excepting that of judge probate, and retired to 
private life. His attention te the public service was so close and 
unvaried, that he was seldom absent from his seat in the legislature 
for more than ninely sessions, except when he was chosen a delegate 
to congress in 1776 and 1777. During the greater part of the war 
he was a member of the council of safety, whose sessions were daily 
and unremitting. He was a judge of the county court for Wind- 
ham county, and judge of probate for Windham district during the 
term of forty years. He held many other offices of minor conse- 
quence, both civil and military. In fact, he spent his whole life in 
the service of the public, and in promoting the prosperity of his 
country. In 1773, Mr. Williams was appointed colonel of the 
twelfth regiment of militia, then very efficient, and comprising 
seventeen hundred men ; but he resigned his commission in 1776, 
upon his election as a delegate to congress. 

At a general assembly of the governor and company of the state 
of Connecticut, held at New Haven on the second Thursday of 
October, 1775, Mr. Williams was appointed a delegate to represent 
the state in the general congress; and on the second Thursday of 
October, 1776, he was re-elected to that high and honourable office. 
He was therefore present and assisted in the deliberations of that 
august assembly, when the great charter of our independence was 
submitted to its consideration. 


The acknowledged aim of Mr. Williams, in his political career, 
was to merit the title of an honest politician, and no one was more 
successful in obtaining it: he never desired any office in which he 
could not promote the public good. He was scrupulously honest in 
all the transactions of private life; and obtained, as a merchant, 
the unlimited confidence of his fellow citizens. When the troubles 
of the revolution commenced, he embarked enthusiastically in the 
cause of the colonics. He settled and relinquished his mercantile 
concerns, and devoted himself wholly to the service of his country. 
His exertions were indefatigable in arousing the feelings of his fel- 
low citizens, both by nervous essays in the public papers, and by 
public speaking: he was an elegant and sententious writer; a vehe- 
ment and ardent orator. His voice was strong and powerful, and 
his eloquence gathered fresh force as he became animated by the 
increasing interest of his subject. His political career was untainted 
by selfishness, unless, indeed, it was selfish to seek elevation in the 
public opinion, by pure and disinterested patriotism. 

It is related, as an evidence of his sincerity, that in the early 
stages of the revolution, he had more than two thousand dollars in 
specie, being a portion of the proceeds of his merchandize: conti- 
nental currency would not, at that period, procure the services 
which were required, and Mr. Williams, from patriotic motives, 
exchanged the specie in his possession for continental money : he 
lost the whole, but it was a loss which he never regretted. This 
anecdote affords an example of that practical patriotism which tests 
the sincerity of the heart. 

The disinterestedness of his conduct was also apparent in the 
settlement of his affairs, previous to his thorough embarkation in 
the turbulent scenes of the revolution. His mind was so fully bent 
upon the one great object, that he scarcely took the trouble of col- 
lecting the notes which he had received: he was accustomed to re- 
mark, that many of his debtors had been impoverished by the war, 
some had died, and others had been killed in the public service, 
and that he would never enforce payment from the widow and the 
fatherless — more especially from those whose husbands and fathers 
had perished in the cause of their country. 

Mr. Williams, as one of the select-men of Lebanon, which then 
contained about four thousand inhabitants, visited almost every 
private family for the purpose of procuring lead, clothing, &c. but 
especially blankets, for the use of the army. He collected and for- 
warded more than one thousand blankets, with many other useful 


articles, including a large quantity of lead, at that time so indis- 
pensable, which was in many instances procured by cutting off the 
weights from the clocks : the inhabitants, and especially the ladies, 
freely parted with their last blanket for the public service. Such 
were the unremitting exertions of Mr. Williams, in almost every 
grade of office; whether we regard him as a judge upon the bench, 
or a member of the committee of safety; a counsellor in congress, 
or a select-man of Lebanon, he always appears in the same unvar- 
nished character — a pure, disinterested, and persevering patriot. 

Mr. Williams was a member of the state convention <5f Con- 
necticut, which adopted the existing constitution, and exerted his 
influence in its support. Although the people of Lebanon were 
opposed to it, they elected him as their representative, and he 
strongly advocated its adoption by the state, in opposition to the 
opinions of his constituents. 

In the year 1772, he married Mary Trumbull, the second daughter 
of Jonathan Trumbull, at that time governor of the state. In the 
domestic circle, Mr. Williams was tender and affectionate, anxious 
for the welfare of his children, and particularly solicitous in pro- 
curing them the benefits of education. The death of his eldest son 
produced a powerful effect upon the mind of Mr. Williams, now far 
advanced in life, and he never recovered from the shock which it 
occasioned. From that moment his health gradually declined. 
When upon the bed of death, not having spoken for the space of 
four days, he called in a clear voice upon the name of his deceased 
son, and required him to attend his dying parent; and almost in- 
stantly expired. He died on the second day of August, 1811, in 
the eighty-first year of his age. Old age, and grief for the prema- 
ture death of his son, were the causes of his death; possessed of an 
excellent constitution, his faculties remained uninjured until a few 
years before his decease, when his hearing became somewhat im- 
paired. His person was of the middle stature and remarkably 
erect and well-proportioned: in his youth, his features were hand- 
some ; his hair and eyes were black ; his nose aquiline ; his face 
round ; and his complexion fair. 

His temper was naturally ardent, but his exertions to attain the 
command over it were, in some degree, crowned with success. He 
possessed, however, during his whole life, a redundancy of spirit 
and vehemence of expression, which frequently created in himself 
strong and sorrowful feelings. On ordinary occasions he was taci- 
turn and reserved; he was involved habitually in deep thinking, 


nnd when he had formed his decision, was tenacious of his opinion. 
He was, by many, considered proud; an unjust opinion, which 
arose, probably, from his natural reserve. He did not, however, 
undervalue his public services, although he was too independent to 
solicit a vote, and too honest to vote upon any popular occasion, in 
opposition to the convictions of his own conscience, or to his own 
proper ideas of the public welfare. In fact, his disinterested, honest 
and upright conduct, rendered him a model for all politicians: with- 
out popular manners, he was semi-annually elected to public office 
for more than fifty years, thus reviving the observation of the poet, 
" that corruption wins not more than honesty." 

Mr. Williams was a man of piety: he entertained the religious 
opinions of the Congregationalists, of which communion he became 
a member in his youth, and through the course of a long life he 
never varied from his professions. In all the various situations in 
which he was placed, and the connexions which he was compelled 
to form with all classes of people, he preserved, unblemished, his 
Christian character, conduct, and conversation. The high opinion 
which his brethren of the church entertained relative to his piety 
and virtue, may be inferred from his election, when a young man, 
to the office of deacon, which he retained until his death. "At 
length the time that Infinite Wisdom had fixed being come, and the 
stores of nature being exhausted, he gave up the ghost, and died in 
a good old age, an old man and full of years ; and he was gathered 
to his people." 


Oliver Wolcott, the youngest son of Roger Wolcott, was 
born the twenty-sixth of November, 1726. He was graduated at 
Yale college in 1747. In the same year he received a commission 
as captain in the army, from Governor Clinton of New York, and im- 
mediately raised a company, at the head of which he marched to the 
defence of the northern frontiers, where he served until the regiment 
to which he was attached was disbanded, in consequence of the 
peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. He then returned to Connecticut, and 
applied himself to the study of medicine, under the direction of his 
brother, Dr. Alexander Wolcott, then a distinguished practitioner. 
Before he was established in practice, the county of Litchfield was 
organized, and he was appointed the first sheriff of the county, in 
1751. In the year 1774, he was promoted to the station of an 
assistant or counsellor, to which he was annually elected till the 
year 1786. While a member of the council, he was also chief 
judge of the court of common pleas for the county, and for many 
years judge of the court of probate for the district of Litchfield. 
He served in the militia in every grade of office, from that of cap- 
tain to that of major-general. On all the questions preliminary to 
the revolutionary war, he was a firm advocate of the American 
cause. In July, 1775, he was appointed by congress one of the 
commissioners of Indian affairs for the northern department. This 
was a trust of great importance. Its object was to induce the 
Indian nations to remain neutral during the war. While he was 
engaged in this business, the controversies respecting boundaries 
between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and between Vermont and 
New York, menaced the tranquillity of the colonies, and exposed 
them to the seductions of British partizans. Mr. Wolcott's influ- 
ence was exerted, with great effect, to compromise these disputes, 
and to unite the New England settlers in support of the American 

In January, 1776, he attended congress at Philadelphia, and 


£ nil 3t Litcliffceld 'ramt 


remained with that body till the Declaration of Independence was 
adopted and signed. He then returned to Connecticut, and on the 
fifteenth of August was appointed by Governor Trumbull and the 
council of safety, to command fourteen regiments of the Connecticut 
militia, which were ordered for the defence of New York. This 
duty he performed till the force, amounting to more than five thou- 
sand men, was subdivided into four brigades. He then returned 
home for a few weeks. In November, 1776, he resumed his seat 
in congress, and accompanied that body to Baltimore during the 
eventful winter of 1777. The ensuing summer, he was constantly 
employed in superintending detachments of militia, and correspond- 
ing on military subjects. After detaching several thousand men 
to the assistance of General Putnam on the North river, he headed 
a corps of between three and four hundred volunteers, who joined 
the northern army under General Gates, where he acquired a com- 
mand of between one and two thousand militia, who aided in re- 
ducing the British army under General Burgoyne. In February, 
1778, he attended congress at York Town, and continued with that 
body till July. In the summer of 1779, after the invasion of Con- 
necticut by the British, he was in the field at the head of a division 
of the militia, for the defence of the sea coast. In 1780, he remained 
in Connecticut. From 1781 to 1783, he occasionally attended con- 
gress. In 1784 and 1785, he was one of the commissioners of Indian 
affairs for the Northern department, and, in concert with Richard 
Butler and Arthur Lee, prescribed the terms of peace to the Six 
Nations of Indians. From 1786, he was annually elected lieutenant- 
governor till 1796, when he was chosen governor; which office he 
held till his death, on the first of December, 1797, in his seventy- 
second year. 

This brief recital of the services of Oliver Wolcott proves that 
during an active and laborious life, devoted to the public service, he 
constantly enjoyed the confidence of his fellow citizens — a confidence 
alike honourable to him, and to the people of the state. He mar- 
ried Laura Collins, of Guilford, in the year 1755, with whom he 
lived till her death in 1795. In the arduous duties in which he was 
engaged during the revolutionary war, he was well supported by his 
wife, who, during his almost constant absence from home, educated 
their children, and conducted the domestic concerns of the family, 
including the management of a small farm, with a degree of forti- 
tude, perseverance, frugality and intelligence, equal to that which, 
in the best days of ancient Rome, distinguished their most illustrious 


matrons. Had it not been for her aid, his public services could not 
have been rendered, without involving a total sacrifice of the inter- 
ests of his family; with her aid, his house was a seat of comfort 
and hospitality; and by means of her assistance, he retained during 
life a small estate, a part of which was a patrimonial inheritance. 

The person of Mr. Wolcott was tall and erect, indicating great 
personal strength and dignity. His countenance manifested a sedate 
and resolute mind. His manners were urbane, and through life he 
was distinguished for modesty. Though firm and tenacious of his 
own opinions, which he distinctly expressed on all suitable occasions, 
he ever manifested great deference for the opinions of others. He 
was indeed a republican of the old school, and his ideas of govern- 
ment and social liberty were derived from the purest sources. He 
was never idle; dissipation had no charms for him. Though not a 
learned man by profession, the writings of the most celebrated his- 
torians, biographers, poets, and orators, both ancient and modern, 
were familiar to his mind, and afforded him the only relaxation in 
which he indulged from active exertions. He was intimately ac- 
quainted with public law, and with the works of the great lumi- 
naries of science, who flourished in Europe, subsequent to the refor- 
mation. His integrity was inflexible, his morals were strictly pure, 
and his faith that of an humble Christian, untainted by bigotry or 

Mr. Wolcott was personally acquainted with, and esteemed by, 
most of the great actors of the American revolution, and his name 
is recorded in connexion with many of its most important events. 
It is the glory of our country, that the fabric of American greatness 
was reared by the united toils and exertions of patriots in every 
state, supported by a virtuous and intelligent people. It is peculiar 
to our revolution, and distinguishes it from every other, that it was 
recommended, commenced, conducted, and terminated under the 
auspices of men, who, with few exceptions, enjoyed the public con- 
fidence during every vicissitude of fortune. It is therefore sufficient 
for any individual to say of him, that he was distinguished for his 
virtues, his talents, and his services during the age of men — 

"Of men, on whom late time a kindling eye 
Shall turn, and tyrants tremble while they read." 

That Mr. Wolcott was justly entitled to this distinction was never 
disputed by his contemporaries. 





The first delegate of New York, whose name appears on the 
Declaration, was William Floyd. This gentleman was the son 
of an opulent and respectable land-holder in the county of Suffolk, 
upon Long Island, who left him, at an early age, the principal in- 
heritor of his estate. He was born on the seventeenth of Decem- 
ber, 1734. His education, although liberal for the times, was chiefly 
confined to the useful branches of knowledge, and was hardly com- 
pleted, when he was called, by the death of his father, to assume 
the management of his patrimonial estate. His early life was prin- 
cipally spent in the circle of an extensive family connexion, which 
comprised the most respectable families in the county. The coun- 
try in which he lived, at that time abounded with game of every 
variety, and having little to occupy his attention, much of his time 
was devoted to hunting, an amusement to which he was passion- 
ately addicted. His hospitality corresponded with his means of 
indulging in it, and his house became the perpetual resort of an 
extensive acquaintance, and the frequent scene of social festivity. 

He embarked, at an early period, in the controversy between 
Great Britain and the colonies, and as it grew more animated, 
became conspicuous for the zeal and ardour with which he espoused 
the popular cause. There was in his conduct, both in public and 
private life, a characteristic sincerity which never failed to inspire 
confidence ; and which, combined with the warmth and spirit with 
which lie opposed the usurpations of the British government, had 
acquired for him an extensive popularity. It was doubtless from 
these considerations, that he was appointed one of the delegates 
from New York to the first continental congress, which met in Phi- 
ladelphia on the fifth of September, 1774. In that patriotic and 
venerable assembly, he was associated with men whose names are 
identified with their country's birth, and will long be cherished in 
grateful remembrance. 

Previous to his attendance in congress, Mr. Floyd had been ap- 
25 R 261 


pointed to the command of the militia of the county of Suffolk, and 
upon his return, he found Long Island menaced with an invasion 
from a naval force assembled in Gardiner's Bay, wjth the avowed 
object of gathering supplies. When the landing of the enemy was 
reported to him, he promptly assembled the force under his com- 
mand, and marched to the point of attack. It was, perhaps, for 
tunate for his little army, composed of raw and undisciplined militia, 
that the terror of their approach left nothing for their arms to 
accomplish. The activity displayed, however, had an important 
effect in inducing the enemy to abandon their design. 

In April, 1775, having been again chosen, by the provincial 
assembly of New York, a delegate to the general congress of the 
colonies, he took his seat in the second continental congress, which 
met in Philadelphia on the tenth of May following, and continued a 
constant attendant for more than two years. As a member of this 
congress, General Floyd united with his illustrious associates in boldly 
dissolving the political bonds which connected the colonies to the 
British crown, and co-operated in the arduous and responsible task 
of arraying them in hostility to the British empire. Under circum- 
stances of danger and distress, with difficnlties almost insurmount- 
able, and embarrassments the most complicated, they were raised 
from the posture of supplication, and clothed in the armour of war. 

During this interesting and protracted session, General Floyd 
was constantly and actively employed in the discharge of his public 
duties, to which he bestowed the most unremitting attention. He 
was chosen on numerous and important committees, the details of 
which were complicated, difficult, and, in many cases, extremely 
laborious. In procuring supplies for the army, in forwarding the 
expedition ordered against Canada, and particularly in introducing 
an efficient organization of the militia, (which may be said to have 
been the mother of the regular army,) as well as in many other 
matters to which his attention was particularly directed by con- 
gress, he was enabled, by his experience and habits of business, to 
render essential service. 

During his attendance in congress, Long Island was evacuated 
by the American troops, and occupied by those of Great Britain. 
His family, in consequence of this event, were driven from their 
home in great haste and confusion, and were removed by his friends 
into Connecticut. The produce and stock of his estate were seized 
by the enemy, and the mansion-house selected as a rendezvous for 
a party of horse, by whom it was occupied during the remainder of 


the war. This event was the source of serious inconvenience to 
him, as it precluded him from deriving any benefit from his landed 
property for nearly seven years, and left him without a house for 
himself and his family. 

On the eighth of May, 1777, General Floyd was appointed a 
senator of the state of New York, under the constitution of the 
state which had then been recently adopted. On the thirteenth of 
May, the provincial convention passed a resolution, that the thanks 
of the convention be given to him and his colleagues, " delegates 
of the state of New York in the honourable the continental con- 
gress, for their long and faithful services rendered to the colony of 
New York and to the said state." 

On the ninth of September, 1777, he took his seat in the senate 
of New York, at their first session under the new constitution. Of 
this body, he became a leading and influential member, and attended 
in his place, with some short intervals, until the sixth of November, 
1778, when they adjourned. 

On the fifteenth of October, 1778, he was unanimously re-elected 
a delegate to the continental congress, by a joint ballot of the senate 
and assembly, and on the second of January following, resumed his 
seat in that body, where he soon became actively employed on 
numerous committees, and continued in attendance until the ninth 
of June, when he obtained leave of absence. 

On the twenty-fourth of August, 1779, the senate of New York 
again convened, and he continued to meet with them until the fol- 
lowing December. 

Having been, on the eleventh of October, 1779, unanimously re- 
elected a delegate to the continental congress, he again attended in 
his place on the second of December. On the next day he was 
elected a member of the board of admiralty, and on the thirteenth 
was chosen a member of the treasury board. His health having 
become impaired by his incessant occupation, he applied to congress, 
on the first of March following, to be excused from the board of 
treasury, and on the first of April, he obtained leave of absence. 

On the twenty-third of May, the senate of New York again con- 
vened, and on the twenty-seventh, they ordered the clerk to write 
to Mr. Floyd, and request his attendance in his place without delay. 
In compliance with this demand, he took his seat on the twentieth 
of June, and was appointed upon a joint committee to deliberate 
upon certain resolutions of congress, embracing all the most inter- 
esting relations existing between the state and general government. 


On the twelfth of September, 1780, General Floyd was again 
elected a delegate to congress. He, however, continued his atten- 
dance in the senate, until they adjourned on the tenth of October, 
and on the fourth of December he resumed his seat in congress. 

He was continued a delegate to congress by several successive 
appointments, and remained, with some short intermissions, a con- 
stant attendant until the twenty-sixth of April, 1783, when, having 
seen his country safely through a long and perilous war, he returned 
to his home after an exile of seven years. His return was hailed in 
his native county with great demonstrations of joy ; many, through 
his influence, had remained faithful to the cause under every trial; 
nor would they credit the restoration of peace, until they beheld him 
safely returned. He found his estate despoiled of almost every 
thing but the naked soil, through the malice and cupidity of the 
tories, who had resorted thither for plunder. His private concerns 
now demanding more of his attention than comported with his duties 
as a delegate to congress, he declined a re-election. He was, how- 
ever, by several successive elections, continued a member of the 
senate until the year 1788, when, upon the adoption of the federal 
constitution, he was elected a member of the first congress, which 
met in New York on the fourth day of March, 1789. At the expi- 
ration of his term of service, he again declined a re-election. 

During his long attendance in the senate of the state of New York, 
he maintained a high and enviable rank, and generally presided in 
that body when the lieutenant-governor left the chair. Under the 
administration of Governor Clinton, he contributed his influence to 
the adoption of a code of laws, which placed the rights of persons 
and of property upon the most substantial and permanent basis. 

Having enumerated the principal events of his public life, it is 
proper, in this place, to offer a few observations in relation to his 
character. He was not of that number who astonish by the splen- 
dour of their conceptions, or amuse and interest us by the brilliancy 
of their fancy, and the ingenuity of their speculations. His thoughts 
were the representations of real existences, and his plans were regu- 
lated by a full view of their practicability; his reasoning was the 
logic of nature, and his conclusions, the demonstrations of expe- 
rience. Hence it arose, that in the accomplishment of his purposes, 
he seemed insensible to every difficulty; obstructions wasted away 
before his perseverance, and his resolution and firmness triumphed 
over every obstacle. He was remarkable for the justness of his 
observations, and the accuracy of his judgment. 


Mr. Floyd was of a middle stature, with nothing particularly 
striking. But there was a natural dignity in his deportment, which 
never failed to impress beholders. As a politician, his integrity was 
unblemished, nor is it known that, during the height of party ani- 
mosity, his motives were ever impeached. He seldom participated 
in debate; his opinions were the result of his own reflections, and 
he left others to the same resource. He pursued his object openly 
and fearlessly; and disdained to resort to artifice to secure its ac- 
complishment. His political course was uniform and independent, 
and marked with a candour and sincerity which attracted the appro- 
bation of those who differed from him in opinion. The most flat- 
tering commentary upon his public life will be found in the frequent 
and constant proofs of popular favour which he received for more 
than fifty years. 

In the year 1800, he was chosen one of the electors of president 
and vice president of the United States. His feelings had been 
excited by the conduct of the previous administration, endangering, 
as he thought, the permanency of our institutions, and neither the 
precarious state of his health, the remonstrances of his friends, nor 
a journey of two hundred miles, in the month of December, could 
prevent him from attending to support his early political friend and 
associate, Mr. Jefferson. 

In 1801, he was elected a member of the convention to revise the 
constitution of the state of New York, and, at a subsequent period, 
served twice as presidential elector. At the earnest solicitation of 
his friends, he was once more elected a senator from the senatorial 
district into which he had removed, but, from the advanced period 
of his life, he was unable to bestow much attention to his public 
duties. In 1820, although he was unable, from the infirmities of 
age, to leave his home, he was again complimented with being 
named upon the electoral college. 

His bodily strength and activity were remarkable for his years; 
and he enjoyed an almost uninterrupted state of health until a year 
or two before his death: his mental vigour remained unimpaired to 
the last. A short time previous to his demise, he complained of an 
unusual debility: on the first of August, 1821, he was affected with 
a partial stagnation in the current of the blood, and expired on the 
fourth, at the age of eighty-seven years, meeting death with the 
characteristic firmness which distinguished him through life. 


Philip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of 
Independence, was a member of a family which has long been dis 
tinguished in the state of New York. His great grandfather was 
John Livingston, a celebrated divine in the church of Scotland, who 
emigrated in 1663 to Rotterdam, where he died in 1672. His son 
Robert, a man of distinguished abilities and high respectability, 
soon after came to America, and obtained a grant for the manor of 
Livingston, in the then colony of New York. He had three sons, 
Philip, Robert, and Gilbert. Philip, the eldest son, was heir to the 
manor: Robert was the grandfather of the celebrated Chancellor 
Livingston, and Gilbert was the grandfather of the Rev. Dr. John H. 
Livingston, one of the most eminent divines in America. Philip had 
six sons, all of whom ranked among the most respectable men of 
the times. The fourth son,who was named after his father, is the 
subject of this memoir, and has covered his name with immortal 
honour, by enrolling himself in the illustrious band of patriots who 
pronounced the United States free and independent. 

Philip Livingston was born at Albany on the fifteenth of January, 
1716. The high standing of his family entitled him to a correspon- 
dent education, and, after preliminary instruction, he was sent to Yale 
College in Connecticut, where he graduated in 1737. His first ap- 
pearance in public life was in September, 1754, when he was elected 
an alderman of the east ward of the city of New York. That city 
then contained only a population of ten thousand eight hundred and 
eighty-one souls. It was divided into seven wards, and the station of 
an alderman was considered important and respectable. He conti- 
nued to exercise this office with universal approbation and signal use- 
fulness for nine years, being annually elected by the freeholders and 
freemen of the city, entitled to vote in the ward which he represented. 

On the sixteenth of December, 1758, the general assembly of the 
colony was dissolved by James Delancey, who was then lieutenant- 
governor. A new house of assembly was consequently chosen. 


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JslK^ - 



Mr. Livingston was, at that election, returned a member from the 
city of New York, and is denominated in the colonial journals, Alder- 
man Philip Livingston, to distinguish him from his brother and 
other gentlemen of his name, who were also members. 

When the general assembly met in 1759, Great Britain was at 
war with France, and as the tendency of foreign controversy is to 
repress internal dissension, an harmonious intercourse existed be- 
tween the different' branches of the government; and the province 
co-operated with great zeal in a project to raise twenty thousand 
men by the united colonies, for the purpose of subduing Canada. 
The legislature agreed to furnish two thousand six hundred and 
eighty men, as the quota from New York. One hundred thousand 
pounds were appropriated for levying, paying, and clothing the 
troops, and an advance of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds 
was made to the British commissariat, whose funds were exhausted. 
In consequence of similar spirited measures on the part of the sis- 
ter colonies and the mother country, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, 
and Quebec, were captured, and the subsequent year witnessed the 
subjugation of all Canada. 

The talents and education of Mr. Livingston enabled him to take 
a distinguished part in the promotion of these important measures, 
and on other occasions of general and primary interest. In his 
legislative career he was particularly sedulous in the encouragement 
of agriculture and commerce, by facilitating communication with 
the ocean, and establishing the character of our productions in 
external or foreign markets. The various measures which he ini- 
tiated, and the different bills which he brought in for these important 
purposes, may be seen in the journals of the colonial assembly, and 
bear ample testimony to the extent of his information, the power of 
his mind, and the ardour of his patriotism. 

At a meeting of the general assembly, on the eleventh of Sep- 
tember, 1764, Mr. Livingston reported an answer to Lieutenant- 
Governor Colden's speech, which contained the following passage, 
deserving of the highest praise for its spirit of genuine patriotism, 
its recognition of the orthodox principles of the revolution, and 
its anticipation of that opposition and resistance which produced 
the glorious work of American independence: "But nothing can 
add to the pleasure we receive from the information your honour 
gives us, that his majesty, our most gracious sovereign, distinguishes 
and approves our conduct. When his service requires it, we shall 
evei be ready to exert ourselves with loyaltv, fidelity, and zeal; and, 


as we have always complied in the most dutiful manner with every 
requisition made by his directions, we, with all humility, hope that 
his majesty, who, and whose ancestors, have long been the guardians 
of British liberty, will so protect us in our rights, as to prevent our 
falling into the abject state of being for ever hereafter incapable of 
doing what can merit either his distinction or approbation. Such 
must be the deplorable state of that wretched people, who (being 
taxed by a power subordinate to none, and in a' great degree unac- 
quainted with their circumstances) can call nothing their own. This 
we speak with the greatest deference to the wisdom and justice of 
the British parliament, in which we confide. Depressed with this 
prospect of inevitable ruin, by the alarming information we have 
from home, neither we nor our constituents can attend to improve- 
ments conducive either to the interests of our mother country or of 
this colony. We shall, however, renew the act for granting a bounty 
on hemp, still hoping that a stop may be put to those measures, 
which, if carried into execution, will oblige us to think that nothing 
but extreme poverty can preserve us from the most insupportable 
bondage. We hope your honour will join with us in an endeavour 
to secure that great badge of English liberty, of being taxed only 
with our own consent, to which we conceive all his majesty's sub- 
jects at home and abroad equally entitled to." 

This decided and energetic stand against the usurpations of Great 
Britain was followed up, at subsequent meetings, by eloquent and 
animated representations to the king, lords, and commons, written 
with great spirit and ability: and it appears, that in October, 17C5, 
a committee from the general assembly met the several committees 
from the different governments on the continent, " to consult on the 
present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which 
they are and must be reduced, by the operation of the acts of par- 
liament for laying duties and taxes on the colonies, and to consider 
of a general and united, dutiful, loyal, and humble representation 
of their condition to his majesty, and to implore relief." The pro- 
ceedings of this congress were approved by the colonial assembly 
of New York, and remonstrances of a similar character and ten- 
dency were unanimously adopted by that body. 

The governor, Sir Henry Moore, having dissolved the general 
assembly, a new general election was held, which resulted highly 
favourable to the whig party, or the party in opposition to British 
assumptions. On the twenty-seventh of October, 1768, Mr. L. was 
unanimously chosen speaker by twenty-four members who had con- 


vened, and was presented, according to the forms of the British 
house of commons, to the governor, as the representative of royalty, 
for his approbation, which was given as a matter of course. 

The proceedings of this assembly were correspondent with the 
exalted character of its presiding officer and leading members. 

In December of this year, resolutions were adopted asserting the 
rights of the colonies against parliamentary usurpation : a correspon- 
dence was opened with the other provinces, and remonstrances pre- 
pared against the unwarrantable assumptions of Great Britain. The 
royal governor, taking umbrage at these proceedings, dissolved 
the general assembly on the second of January, 1769, and a new 
one was elected, which met at the usual place on the fourth of April 

Although a majority of this body consisted of the creatures of the 
crown, yet some of the most distinguished members of the whig party 
were re-elected — Clinton, Van Cortland, Schuyler, Ten Brocck, and 
De Witt. Mr. Livingston declined an election for New York, and 
after a violent contest in that city, where one thousand five hundred 
and fifteen votes were taken, the candidates adverse to the popular 
party were elected. He was, however, returned as a member from 
the manor of Livingston; but, being in a minority, was not brought 
forward as speaker. But Mr. Livingston was marked out as an 
object of ministerial vengeance; and, on the very same day, Mr. 
Thomas moved to vacate his seat on account of his not being a 
resident of the manor of Livingston. 

When Mr. Thomas' resolution was considered, it appeared that 
Mr. Livingston was a freeholder of the manor of Livingston; that 
for fifty-three years, except in three instances, the manor was re- 
presented by non-residents, and that, in twenty-one out of twenty- 
four cases, non-residents were permitted to represent counties. In 
pursuance of pre-determined hostility, his seat was vacated by se- 
venteen to six votes, and his legislative career in that body termi- 
nated. The general assembly, from that period, continued devoted 
to British supremacy. As late down as the seventeenth February, 
1775, a motion was made to thank Philip Livingston and his col- 
leagues, for their conduct as delegates to the continental congress, 
held at Philadelphia in September and October previously, which 
was negatived. 

Mr. Livingston was chosen a member of the first congress, which 
met at Philadelphia on the fifth of September, 1774. In this assem- 



bly he took a distinguished part and was appointed on the commit- 
tee to prepare an address to the people of Great Britain. 

This illustrious body adjourned on the twenty-sixth day of Octo- 
ber, and re-assembled on the tenth May, 1775. 

A provincial convention, held at the city of New York on the 
twenty-second of April, 1775, appointed Philip Livingston, and 
others, delegates to that congress, who, or any five of them, were 
intrusted with full powers to concert with the delegates from the 
other colonies, and determine on such measures as should be judged 
most effectual for the preservation and re-establishment of Ameri- 
can rights and privileges, and for the restoration of harmony between 
Great Britain and the colonies. 

Mr. Livingston, together with several of his colleagues, attended 
this congress, and on the fourth of July, 1776, he, together with 
William Floyd, Francis Lewis, and Lewis Morris, affixed their sig- 
natures to the Declaration of Independence in behalf of the state 
of New York, and on the ninth of the same month, the convention 
of New York, assembled at White Plains, unanimously sanctioned 
the measure. 

On the fifteenth of July, 1776, he was chosen by congress a mem- 
ber of the board of treasury, and on the twenty-ninth of April fol- 
lowing, a member of the marine committee ; two important trusts, 
in which the safety and well-being of America were essentially in- 

On the thirteenth of May, 1777, the state convention re-elected 
him to congress, and thanked him and his colleagues for their 
long and faithful services, rendered to the colony and state of New 

His attendance in the continental congress did not, however, 
preclude his employment at home in affairs of importance. On the 
twenty-second November, 1774, he was elected a member of the 
association formed to execute the plan of commercial interdiction 
against Great Britain. On the twentieth of April, 1775, he was 
appointed president of the provincial congress assembled in New 
York. On the first of February, 1776, he was unanimously chosen 
a member of the general assembly for the city of New York. On 
the sixteenth of April, following, he was selected as a delegate of 
the next provincial congress ; and in the ensuing June, he was chosen 
to serve in the same body the next year; with the additional power 
of framing a new government or constitution for the colony. 

On the twentieth of April, 1777, the constitution of the state was 


adopted at Kingston. On the eighth of May following, Mr. Liv- 
ingston was chosen a senator under it, for the southern district, and 
on the tenth of September, he attended in that capacity the first 
meeting of the first legislature of the state of New York. 

On the second of October, 1777, he, together with James Duane, 
Francis Lewis, William Duer, and Gouverneur Morris, were elec- 
ted by the legislature the first delegates to congress, under the con- 
stitution of the state. 

On the fifth of May, 1778, he took his seat in congress, at the 
most critical and gloomy period of the revolution. That body had 
retired to York in Pennsylvania, after the British had taken pos- 
session of Philadelphia. Mr. Livingston had been requested by the 
state government to attend and devote his faculties to the salvation 
of his country. Although feeble in body and low in health, he con- 
sented to forego all considerations but those of patriotism. His 
family were at that time in Kingston, and previous to his departure 
for congress, he visited his relatives in Albany, and after his return 
he addressed to them a valedictory letter, expressing his firm con- 
viction that he never would see them again; this opinion he reiter- 
ated to his family when he bade them a final adieu. It was a sub- 
ject of great regret to Governor Clinton, that imperious considera- 
tions had induced him to urge the measure. On the twelfth of June, 
he died, deprived of the consolations of home and the society of all 
his family except his son Henry, a youth of eighteen, who, on hear- 
ing of his father's illness, immediately left the family of General 
Washington, where he resided, to perform the last duties to his 
dying father. 

On the twelfth of June, congress adopted the following resolution . 

" Congress being informed that Mr. P. Livingston, one of the 
delegates for the state of New York, died last night, and that cir- 
cumstances require that his corpse be interred this evening. 

" Resolved, that congress will in a body attend the funeral this 
evening at six o'clock, with a crape round the arm, and will con- 
tinue in mourning for the space of one month. 

" Ordered, that Mr. Lewis, Mr. Duer, and Mr. G. Morris, be a 
committee to superintend the funeral, and that the Rev. Mr. Duf- 
field, the attending chaplain, be notified to officiate on the occasion." 

Mr. Livingston's name is mentioned in the charter of the New 
York City Library as one of those who, in 1754, set on foot a sub- 
scription to erect a public library, and who were afterwards incor- 
porated in 1772. It was originally contemplated to erect an edifice 


for a museum and observatory, as well as library; but that part of 
the plan has not been realized. 

A charter was granted for a hospital in New York, in 1771, of 
which Mr. Livingston was one of the first governors. He was also 
one of the founders of the chamber of commerce, which was incor- 
porated the antecedent year: and he aided in the establishment of 
King's, now Columbia, college. 

He married Christina the daughter of Colonel Dirck Ten Broeck, 
by whom he had five sons and three daughters. Few men have 
been more favoured in the respectability and prosperity of their con- 
nexions: he could lookback on his ancestors with a proud conscious- 
ness that they always stood in the first ranks of distinguished citi- 
zens ; he could always realize the same conviction in his contem- 
porary relatives ; and if Providence had prolonged his valuable life 
to the present time, he would have seen, in his numerous de- 
'scendants, characters exceeded by none, in those accomplishments 
which adorn society, and in those virtues which give dignity to 
human nature. 

The life of Mr. Livingston was distinguished for inflexible recti- 
tude and patriotic devotion. He was also a firm believer in the 
sublime truths of religion, and an humble follower of our divine 

As one of the founders of American independence, he foresaw 
the difficulties, perplexities, sacrifices, and dangers, that were to be 
encountered; and, in its earliest stages, he proceeded with that 
wisdom and circumspection which were demanded by his age, ex- 
perience and character; and which served as a salutary check on 
the more animated career of some of his youthful associates. When, 
however, it became necessary to draw the sword, and to sever the 
empire ; when petitions were answered by insults, and the demands 
of freemen were met by the bayonet; then he did not hesitate to 
assume the highest responsibilities, and to put in jeopardy his life 
and large estate. During the whole of the revolutionary war, he 
and his family were in a state of exile; and they were even pursued, 
in their sequestered retreat at Kingston, by the conflagrations of a 
British army. A short time previous to his demise, he sold a por- 
tion of his property to sustain the public credit, and with a full pre- 
sentiment of approaching death, arising from the nature of his com- 
plaint, which was a hydrothorax, or dropsy in the chest, he did not 
hesitate to relinquish the sweets of home, and the endearments of 
a beloved family, and devote the last remnant of his illustrious life 


to the service of his country, then enveloped in the thickest gloom 
of adversity. 

In his temper, Mr. Livingston was somewhat irritable, yet exceed- 
ingly mild, tender, and affectionate to his family and friends. There 
was a dignity, with a mixture of austerity, in his deportment, which 
rendered it difficult for strangers to approach him, and which made 
him a terror to those who swerved from the line, or faltered in the 
path, of personal virtue and patriotic duty. He was silent and re- 
served, and seldom indulged with much freedom in conversation. 
Fond of reading, and endowed with a solid and discriminating un- 
derstanding, his mind was replenished with various, extensive and 
useful knowledge. 

His last moments were correspondent with the tenor of his well- 
spent life. He met with characteristic firmness and Christian for- 
titude, the trying hour which separated him from this world. 

He taught us how to live, and (oh ! too high 
The price for knowledge,) taught us how to die 


Francis Lewis was born in the month of March, 1713, at Lan- 
daffin the shire of Glamorgan, South Wales, where his father was 
established as a Protestant Episcopal clergyman. His mother was 
the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Pettingal, a clergyman of the same 
profession, in Caernarvonshire, North Wales. He was their only 
child ; but death soon deprived him of his natural guardians, and 
left him an orphan at the age of four or five years. At this tender 
stage of life, he was consigned to the care of a maternal maiden 
aunt, named Llawelling, who resided in Caernarvon. A strong and 
proud attachment to her country was a peculiar feature in the cha- 
racter of this respectable lady, who appears to have been devoted 
to every thing connected with the ancient British: hence she took 
particular pains to render her nephew, in early youth, master of the 
Cymraeg, or native language of his country; a knowledge of which 
he retained through the course of his life: he was also sent to 
Scotland, where he acquired, in the family of a Highland relation, 
the Gaelic language, which is said to be the oldest and purest dia- 
lect of the Celtic. 

When young Lewis had arrived at the proper age, he was trans- 
ferred to the tutelage of a maternal uncle, then Dean of St. Paul's 
in London, by whom he was placed at Westminster school, where 
he completed his education and became a good classic scholar. He 
then entered the counting-room of a merchant in the city of London, 
where he served a regular clerkship, and acquired a very extensive 
and judicious knowledge of commerce, which became the occupation 
of his future life. When he attained the age of twenty-one years, 
he came into possession of a moderate amount of property, which 
he converted into merchandize, and embarked with it for the city 
of New York, where he arrived in the spring of 1735. Finding 
that his cargo was too extensive for the New York market, he 
formed a commercial connexion with Mr. Edward Annesley, a 



descendant of the ancient Anglesey family, and repaired, with a 
portion of his merchandize, to Philadelphia, leaving his partner to 
dispose of the residue in New York. 

At the expiration of two years, he returned to New York, where 
he permanently established his residence and engaged extensively 
in navigation and foreign trade. At this period he married Eliza- 
beth Annesley, the sister of his partner: the offspring of this con- 
nexion was seven children, four of whom died during infancy, and 
the three younger lived to become the parents of a numerous progeny. 

One of his first shipments to Europe consisted of an entire cargo 
of wheat; and he frequently remarked, that, from its novelty, it 
was at that time the subject of much conversation. The port of 
New York being inadequate to the supply of a full freight for the 
vessel, he was compelled to send her round to Philadelphia to com- 
plete her lading: the average price of wheat was three shillings 
and four pence, currency, per bushel. In the prosecution of his 
mercantile pursuits, which exhibited peculiar perseverance and 
enterprise, he traversed a great part of the continent of Europe. 
He was twice in Russia, and visited all her sea-ports from Peters- 
burg to Archangel: he also visited the Orkney and Shetland islands, 
and was twice shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland. 

During the French war, 3Ir. Lewis attended the English troops 
as agent for supplying them with clothing. Being a friend of the 
commandant of Fort Oswego, he remained with him in the capa- 
city of aid on the investment of the fort, and became a prisoner to 
the French. 

After the surrender of Fort Oswego, in 1756, it is reported that 
Montcalm barbarously gave permission to the chief warrior of the 
savages, who composed a part of his forces, to select about thirty 
of the garrison as his portion of the prisoners. Mr. Lewis was in- 
cluded among the number, and it is handed down by an idle tra- 
dition that, in this fearful extremity, his life was preserved by a 
certain resemblance which existed between the Welsh and the 
Indian tongues. 

From the termination of the Canadian war, to the commence- 
ment of the revolution, Mr. Lewis uniformly co-operated with those 
early patriots who opposed the gradual encroachments of the British 
government on the rights of the American people. He was one of 
the first to enrol his name among the " sons of liberty," — an asso- 
ciation which exhibited the earliest dawn of a determination to 
resist force by force. When it was attempted to put the stamp act 


in operation, lie retired from business to his country-seat on Long 
Island, where he continued to reside until the year 1771. Being 
then desirous of establishing his eldest son in the mercantile pro- 
fession, he embarked with him for England, and towards the close 
of that year returned with a large quantity of dry -goods, and recom- 
menced business under the firm of Francis Lewis and Son. On the 
commencement of hostilities in 1774-5, he again retired from com- 
mercial pursuits. 

The patriotism, firmness, integrity, and abilities which had cha- 
racterized the career of Mr. Lewis for almost half a century, pointed 
him out to his fellow citizens as a fit representative to the conti- 
nental congress, and on the twenty-second of April, 1775, he was 
unanimously elected a delegate, with full power to concert and de- 
termine on such measures as should be judged most effectual for 
the preservation and re-establishment of American rights and pri- 
vileges, and for the restoration of harmony between Great Britain 
and the colonies. On the twenty-first of December, 1775, he was 
continued, by the provincial congress of New York, a delegate from 
that state for the year 1776, and aflixed his signature to the Decla- 
ration of Independence with a pride and exultation, only equalled 
by the ardour with which he supported its adoption. In a conven- 
tion of the representatives of the state of New York, held at White 
Plains, on the ninth of July, 1776, the conduct of her congres- 
sional delegates was, as has been mentioned, fully approved, and it 
was unanimously resolved that the reasons assigned by the conti- 
nental congress for declaring the United Colonies free and indepen- 
dent states, were cogent and conclusive; and that, while they 
lamented the cruel necessity which had rendered that measure 
unavoidable, they would, at the risk of their lives and fortunes, 
unite with the other colonies in supporting it. 

At the election held at Kingston, by the representatives of New 
York, on the thirteenth of May, 1777, Mr. Lewis was not. included 
in the representation to congress, but received the formal thanks 
of the convention for his long and faithful services rendered to the 
colony and state of New York. At the first meeting, however, of 
the legislature, he was again elected a delegate, on the second of 
October, 1777, and appeared in his place on the fifth of the follow- 
ing December. On the sixteenth of October, 1778, he was, for the 
fourth and last time, appointed to represent the state in the national 
legislature. On the twenty-seventh of April, 1779, he obtained 
leave of absence, which appears to have terminated his career in 


congress, after a long, laborious, and energetic display of the 
patriotism and abilities which had procured him the distinguished 
honour of a seat in the most illustrious assembly that the world has 
ever witnessed. In the various duties which devolved on him, he 
uniformly acted with prudence and precision, both as it regarded 
the great national questions which were discussed in the house, and 
the less distinguished but not less necessary business of committees. 
In his employment in secret services, and particularly in his pur- 
chases of clothing for the army, in the importation of arms and am- 
munition, and in contracting for provisions, he displayed the pecu- 
liar qualifications which might be expected from his commercial 
abilities. As a member of the committee of claims, instituted for 
the purpose of putting the accounts of the continent in a proper 
train of liquidation and settlement, his professional knowledge was 
equally valuable and correct. From the same cause, he was an 
efficient member, in 1775, of the committee, on the Albany treaty 
with the Six Nations of Indians, appointed to mature a plan for re- 
opening the trade with those Indians at Albany i nd Schenectady, 
and to devise ways and means for procuring goods proper for that 
trade. On the eleventh of December, 1775, he was appointed one 
of a committee to devise some mode of furnishing the colonies with 
a naval armament, and was a valuable member of the committee 
of commerce. On the twentieth of September, 1776, he was dele- 
gated, together with Mr. Sherman and Mr. Gerry, to repair to head 
quarters, near New York, to inquire into the state of the army, and 
to devise the best means of supplying its wants. But it is impos- 
sible to enumerate the varied and valuable duties performed by Mr. 
Lewis during the period of his services in congress. On the seventh 
of December, 1779, not long after his retirement from that body, 
he was appointed a commissioner for the board of admiralty, which 
office he accepted. 

At the time of his first election to congress in 1775, Mr. Lewis 
unfortunately removed his family and effects to his country-seat on 
Long Island, which was plundered, in the fall of 1776, by the Bri- 
tish light-horse, under the command of Colonel Birteh. All his im- 
movable property was wantonly destroyed, as well as his books and 
papers of every description. But the wrath of the marauders against 
the rebel representative, who had dared to brave the fury of offended 
royalty, by inscribing his name on the document which severed the 
British empire, was not appeased by the ruin in which they involved 
all his destructible property. The vengeance of party spirit was 
27 s2 


basely and inhumanly visited on an unprotected and unoffending 
female, and the undaunted patriotism of the statesman was revenged 
in the person of his wife. Mrs. Lewis, with inconceivable brutality, 
was placed in close confinement, without a bed to lie upon, and 
without any change of clothes whatever, in which situation she re- 
mained during several months. This disgraceful affair was brought 
before congress on the eighth of November, 1776, and then refer- 
red to the board of war : on the third of December following, it was 
resolved that a " Mrs. Chamier be permitted to go to her husband 
at New York, and that Mrs. Lewis at Flushing, on Long Island, be 
required in exchange." It appears, however, that this unfortunate 
victim was finally exchanged through the influence of General Wash- 
ington, for Mrs. Barrow, the wife of the British paymaster general, 
and Mrs. Kempe, the wife of the attorney general of the province. 
The consequence of her imprisonment was the entire loss of health ; 
and in the course of two years, her life fell a sacrifice to this modern 
act of Vandalism. In fact, the conduct of the British was, in many 
respects, inhuman and disgraceful, particularly in the treatment of 
prisoners at New York. The wanton and oppressive devastation 
of the country, and the destruction of property; the brutal treat- 
ment of those who fell into their power; the savage butchery of 
others who had submitted and were incapable of resistance ; and 
the lust and brutality of the soldiers in the abuse of women, have 
all inflicted a stain upon the British character and British arms, 
which all the glory of her Marlboroughs, her Nelsons, and her Wel- 
lingtons, can never efface; and the deep wound which pierced the 
bosom of America, still rankles and festers from generation to gene- 
ration. From the report of a committee of congress, in April, 1777, 
it appears that the whole track of the British army through New 
Jersey was marked with the most wanton ravages and desolation; 
and that places of worship, ministers, and religious persons of cer- 
tain Protestant denominations, were particularly treated with the 
most rancorous hatred, and at the same time with the greatest con- 
tempt. It has been asserted, on as good evidence as the case will 
admit, that, during the last six years of the war, more than eleven 
thousand persons died on board the Jersey prison-ship, which was 
stationed in East river, near New York; and for some time after 
the war, the bones of many of these victims lay whitening in the sun 
on the shores of Long Island. Conyngham, the provost marshal at 
New York, was a fellow who would not, says Graydon, have dis- 
graced the imperial throne of the Ca>sars, in the darkest days of 


Roman tyranny; nor the republic of France at the most refulgent 
era of jacobinism. It is recorded, as a trait of his villany, that in 
the evening he would traverse his domain with a whip in his hand, 
sending his prisoners to bed with the ruffian-like exclamation of 
" kennel, ye sons of b — s! kennel, G — dd — n ye!" Colonel Ethan 
Allen, than whom few have ever felt more severely the hand of arbi- 
trary power, declares that Joshua Loring, (husband of the lady im- 
mortalized in "the Battle of the Kegs,") the commissary of prison- 
ers, was even a greater villain than Conyngham. His language on 
this occasion, so violent, yet characteristic of that singular man, de- 
monstrates the irresistible excitement occasioned by a series of the 
most inhuman oppressions, and which once caused him to twist off 
with his teeth the nail which fastened the bar of his hand-cuffs : 
"Loring," he remarks, "is the most mean-spirited, cowardly, de- 
ceitful, and destructive animal in God's creation below; and legions 
of infernal devils, with all their tremendous horrors, are impatiently 
ready to receive Howe and him, with all their detestable accom- 
plices, into the most exquisite agonies of the hotest regions of 

The property of Mr. Lewis was almost all sacrificed on the altar 
of patriotism; and the peace which established the independence 
of his country, found him reduced from affluence to nearly a state 
of poverty; his real estate being little more than sufficient for the 
discharge of his British debts. 

On the thirtieth day of December, 1803, this venerable man, and 
excellent citizen, was gathered to his fathers, in the ninetieth year 
of his age, bequeathing to his posterity a name which shall long 
flourish in the annals of liberty, and affording an example of virtue, 
constancy, and personal sacrifice, which, if properly appreciated, 
will serve as a model upon which the rising patriot may found his 
fame, and to which the veteran statesman may look with mingled 
emotions of rivalry and admiration. 


The family of Morris was greatly distinguished, through several 
generations, in the province of New York. Its members were con- 
spicuous in the public affairs of that colony, by high station and 
popular influence, as well as extensive possessions and illustrious 

Lewis Morris, the subject of this memoir, was born at Morris- 
ania, Chester county, New York, in the year 1726, and was the 
eldest of four brothers, of whom one, Staats, was a general officer 
in the British service, and member of parliament. Richard was 
judge of vice-admiralty, and chief justice of the state of New York, 
and Gouverneur was a distinguished orator and member of congress. 

Lewis received the education usually given at that period to the 
sons of gentlemen, but with only the limited advantages which a 
residence in the country afforded. 

At the age of sixteen he was sent to Yale College, where, under 
the care of the learned and pious Dr. Clap, he was taught the 
learned languages and mathematics ; and his youthful mind was im- 
bued with the lessons of morality and religion. 

He was graduated as Bachelor of Arts, at the public commence- 
ment in 1746, and returning immediately to his paternal acres, he 
devoted himself assiduously to the theory and practice of agriculture. 

This particular period has been called the golden age of the colo- 
nies. Certainly a remarkable degree of tranquillity and plenty, of 
peace and prosperity, was then enjoyed. The yoke of government 
sat lightly ; the power of internal legislation was exercised with 
little restraint by the colonial legislatures ; the authority of the 
crown was scarcely felt or seen, and the means of comfortable sub- 
sistence were within the easy attainment of all men. 

At this happy era Lewis Morris passed from youth to man- 
hood. He was one to whom, both for his illustrious descent and 
connexions, and for his large possessions, the eyes of the whole 
orovince of New York were turned; and he was, according to the 


4\ i § 



tradition that reaches us, richly endowed with all the most prepos- 
sessing and attractive graces of person and deportment. 

Such attributes become the scorn of advanced years, but they are 
the glory of youth. It may, therefore, be worth recording, that Lewis 
Morris possessed a lofty stature, a singularly handsome face, and 
the most graceful demeanor, with a temperament so enthusiastic 
and ardent, and a disposition so benevolent and generous, as to ren- 
der him in his native province the universal favourite of his coevals. 

The town, however, with all its attractions of society and plea- 
sure, could not draw him away, except occasionally, from the care 
of his estate at Morrisania, where he became a farmer on a very 
large scale of agricultural operations, which he carried on with 
spirit and success. 

He was early in life blessed in a very happy matrimonial con- 
nexion with Miss Mary Walton, a young lady of large fortune and 
amiable character, who became the mother of six sons and four 

In the year 1767, the province of New York was put to a severe 
trial of her spirit and firmness, by the act requiring additional sup- 
plies to be given to the king's troops. This imposition was very 
partial in its operation, only those places where parts of the royal 
army were quartered being subjected to its influence. Upon New 
York it operated with particular severity and inconvenience, and 
was an invasion of the right of property almost as gross as that 
which had been attempted in the stamp act. 

On the subject of this law, and on the question of submitting to 
it, Mr. Morris was decided and unreserved. He did not hesitate to 
pronounce it unconstitutional, tyrannical, and not to be submissively 
borne; and he joined in promoting the spirit which induced the 
colonial legislature to refuse their compliance. After a few months 
of contumacy the province found itself obliged to submit, the royal 
troops were supplied with the salt, vinegar, beer and cider called 
for by the military requisition ; and a sullen silence on the part of 
the inhabitants was supposed by the British government to be a 
proof of satisfaction. 

At this time, the colony most seriously embroiled with the royal 
authority was Massachusetts Bay ; but the others were by no means 
unconcerned spectators; and when, at length, the severe measures 
were successively adopted, of the revival of the statute of Henry 
the Eighth, for sending persons charged with treason to England 
for trial; the closing of the port of Boston; and the bill authorizing 


the king's officers to send to England any person in Massachusetts 
accused of any offence; these tyrannical and cruel impositions were 
felt by the whole as aggressions on each, and by general consent 
the memorable congress of 1774 was assembled. 

Mr. Lewis Morris was not a member of this congress. He was 
too decided and zealous an assertor of the rights of the colonies, 
and too bold a declaimer against the arbitrary acts of the ministry. 
The object at this time was peace, to be secured by compromise ; 
and too rigid an adherence to the rights of the colonists, or too 
warm an expression of the sentiments which the conduct of the 
government could not fail to excite, might mar the scheme of paci- 

The choice of delegates to the congress of the succeeding year, 
was governed in a considerable degree by different principles, and 
men of less timid disposition, and more enthusiastic spirit, were 
in many cases substituted for more cautious and more loyal pre- 

The bloody skirmish, sometimes called the battle, at Lexington, 
had occurred just in time to infuse fresh ardour into the hearts of 
the New York convention of deputies, which on the twenty-second 
of April, 1775, assembled for the purpose of choosing delegates to 
the general congress; and under the influence of this feeling they 
chose Mr. Morris as one of them ; an appointment which he pro- 
ceeded to fulfil, on the fifteenth of May, when he took his seat. 

In the proceedings of the previous congress, the olive branch alone 
was discernible — humility, loyalty, patient suffering was the only 
boast ; now the tone appears somewhat changed, the sword is shown, 
undrawn, in one hand; the olive branch still held in the other; a 
devoted attachment to the king was still professed ; but this senti- 
ment was curiously blended with an acknowledgment that recon- 
ciliation was quite uncertain, and with earnest recommendations to 
prepare for war. This mixture of affection and fidelity towards the 
king, with bitter complaints against his ministers, accompanied with 
a stern resolution to defend the rights of the colonies, is strikingly 
exemplified in the resolutions adopted very early in the session. 

Soon after these first hints of war, Mr. Morris was placed on a 
committee, of which Washington was the chairman, to consider or. 
ways and means to supply the colonies with ammunition and mili- 
tary stores. The labours of this committee were as embarrassing 
as any that could be imagined : the condition of the colonies as tc 
the possession of the implements of war was nearly that of absolute 


destitution; and the choice was difficult between the expediency of 
keeping the degree of their poverty, in that respect, a secret, and 
the urgent necessity of an appeal to the patriotism of the country at 
large for the means of a supply. 

Mr. Morris continued during the residue of this session faithfully 
performing his duties on the floor and in committee; but before the 
commencement of the next, he went to the western country for the 
purpose of assisting in the difficult operation of detaching the In- 
dians from the interests of the British government, and inducing 
them to join their force to that of the colonies. He continued at 
Pittsburg and the vicinity until the winter, and was in constant cor- 
respondence with the congress on the subject of Indian affairs. 

Lewis Morris was, very early, a determined advocate of indepen- 
dence; but the people in general of this province, and particularly 
of the city, did not agree with him in this sentiment. 

The intercourse had been particularly close and intimate between 
those people and the officers of the royal government. A consider- 
able number of troops had usually been stationed at New York, and 
the officers had rendered themselves acceptable guests to the in- 
habitants, by adding greatly to the cheerfulness and bustle of the 
place; besides forming intimacies, and in some instances, con- 
nexions with the families of the citizens. 

The " ministerial" fleet, as it was called even then by many per- 
sons who were quite ready to oppose it as such, but not yet recon- 
ciled to the idea of open hostility against the king, arrived at Sandy 
Hook while congress were debating the proposition introduced by 
Mr. Lee to issue a declaration of independence. 

The danger that impended over New York, the prospect of such" 
a scene of destruction as Falmouth and some other towns had al- 
ready exhibited, or even the anticipation of a dilapidation like that 
which Boston had suffered from the occupation of the royal army, 
might have supplied a fair excuse for Mr. Morris, if lie had desired 
to impede the adoption of the resolution, or had chosen to evade 
responsibility by absenting himself from the halls of congress. But, 
if he had an estate to be devastated and destroyed by the British 
troops, he had also a character for consistency to preserve, which 
he valued much more highly ; and he had also a sincere, high-minded 
love of liberty and justice, which would not permit him to hesitate, 
if pride of reputation had been out of the question, between the 
safety of his individual property and the honour of his country. 

In voting for the Declaration of Independence, and putting his 


name to the instrument, at the very time when a large British army 
had landed within a few miles of his estate, and their armed ships 
were lying within cannon-shot of the dwelling of his family, he felt 
and knew that he was devoting his fine farm and mansion, and va- 
luable timber, to the special vengeance of the British commanders, 
and therefore to the unrestrained devastations of the soldiery; but 
he had higher aims than the preservation of his own property ; 
motives of action in which self-interest formed no part. 

The operations of the hostile armies, very shortly afterwards 
placed Morrisania, as had been expected, in the power of the 
enemy; who did not spare the property of one that had just been 
affixing his name to a public renunciation and defiance of the king's 

His fine woodland of more than a thousand acres, all upon navi- 
gable water, and within a few miles of the capital — of a value not 
easily measured, but evidently worth an immense price — was totally 
laid bare and given up to plunder and conflagration. His house, 
from which his family were obliged to retreat, was spoiled and in- 
jured; his fences burnt or prostrated; his stock driven off; his 
domestics and tenants dispersed; and his whole estate laid waste 
and ruined, as much as was within the power and opportunity of 
the British forces. 

During the interval between this period and the evacuation of 
New York, in the autumn of 1783, Mr. Morris and his family suf- 
fered great inconvenience from being thus cut off from their resi- 
dence and their means of support. He was obliged in consequence 
to make many sacrifices, which caused him to return to the posses- 
sion of his estates, impoverished far beyond the mere loss of his 
woods, his stock, and his fences. 

The spirit with which he had met the difficulties of the contest, 
and which sustained him under the pressure of these misfortunes, 
was shared equally by his family, who did not regret the loss of their 
comforts, or the enjoyments to be purchased by wealth, knowing for 
what cause their father had subjected them to such privations. His 
three eldest sons had taken up arms, and exerted themselves as 
faithfully for their country in the field, as their father did in council. 

Mr. Morris relinquished his seat in congress to his half-brother, 
Gouverneur, who was elected in his stead early in the year 1777, 
on which occasion the convention passed a resolution of thanks to 
him and his colleagues, "for their long and faithful services ren- 
dered to the colony of New York and the said state." 


After this time, New York being in a greater or less degree the 
seat of war, he remained within the state, serving as a member of 
the legislature and an officer of the militia. In the legislature his 
high character, undaunted spirit and untiring zeal, were of the most 
important value to the cause of independence, which still, for some 
years of difficulty and bloodshed, was suspended in doubtful pros- 
pect. As an officer of the militia, he rose to the rank of a major- 
general, and contributed essentially to the effective organization and 
equipment of the militia of New York. 

He lived to see peace restored to his country, her independence 
acknowledged, and her prosperity placed on the firmest basis, and 
secured by the wisest political constitution that has ever yet been 

The latter part of his life was passed at Morrisania, the elegant 
seat of his ancestors, where, turning his sword again into a scythe, 
he resumed the practice of agriculture; and in the delightful retire- 
ment of his farm, he met the advances of old age with serenity and 
happiness. Of his numerous offspring one only, the eldest son, pre- 
ceded him to the tomb: the rest he had the satisfaction to see re- 
spectably settled in life, and supporting the high character of the 

He died in January, 1798, in the seventy-second year of his age, 
and his remains were interred with military and civic honours, in 
the family vault at Morrisania. 

28 T 


Richard Stockton, whose name is affixed to the Declaration of 
Independence, was the eldest son of John Stockton. He was born at 
the ancient family-seat of his forefathers, near Princeton, in the 
county of Somerset, New Jersey, on the first day of October, A. D. 
1730. He received ali the advantages which a finished education 
could confer upon a powerful and comprehensive mind. His instruc- 
tion in the rudiments of classical science was, in early youth, confined 
to that profound scholar, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, at an academy 
in West Nottingham, in the then province of Maryland. Having 
remained in that situation about two years, he was sent to the col- 
lege of New Jersey at Newark, where he diligently pursued his stu- 
dies for several years, and received the honours of the first annual 
commencement at Nassau Hall, A. D. 1748, which was then cele- 
brated at that ancient town under the auspices of the eminent and 
learned divine, President Burr. At this early age he indicated that 
intellectual superiority which, ripened by experience, was so bril- 
liantly evolved in the course of his public and professional career. 

Soon after he was graduated, he applied himself to the study of 
the law, under the direction of the honourable David Ogden, of 
Newark, at that time the most eminent lawyer in the province. He 
was admitted to the bar in the term of August, 1754, and to the 
grade of counsellor in 1758, when he immediately established him- 
self at his paternal seat, and rose with remarkable rapidity to the 
first rank in the forum. He stood, in fact, for many years, and by 
universal consent, unrivalled at the bar, although a number of his 
professional contemporaries were men of learning and brilliant 
talents. Having acquired a very competent fortune, he relaxed 
from the toils of professional business in the years 1766 and 1767, 
and visited England, Scotland, and Ireland. 

Mr. Stockton had now been more than a year absent from home, 
during which period his professional business had been principally 
conducted by his friends, and, more particularly, by his brother-in- 



law , the late Elias Boudinot. Under these circumstances he became 
anxious to return to America, and his solicitude was greatly increased 
by the knowledge that his arrival was earnestly anticipated by his 
family and friends. Neither the amusements of the British capital, 
nor the fascinations of fashionable life, nor the pointed attentions 
which at that peculiar period were liberally lavished upon distin- 
guished Americans, could longer detain him from the endearments 
of domestic life, and the society of a wife and family to whom he 
was tenderly attached. He embarked in a vessel bound to New 
York, in the month of August, and after a prosperous passage of 
twenty-six days, arrived at the port of destination about the four- 
teenth of September, 1767. He was received by his neighbours, 
relatives and friends, who testified their admiration of his character 
by escorting him to his residence, with the highest respect and most 
cordial affection. 

In the year 1768, he was elevated to a seat in the supreme royal 
legislative judiciary, and executive council of the province, enjoying 
at the same time the full favour of the royal government, and the 
undiminished confidence of his friends and fellow citizens. In 1774 
he was appointed one of the judges of the supreme court, and for 
some time performed the duties of that office as an associate with 
his old preceptor, David Ogden. During a happy interval of a few 
years, he cultivated and embellished an extensive and fertile landed 
estate, where he resided in the perfect enjoyment of every domestic 
blessing, surrounded by his family, and possessed of an ample 

But the storm, which had been so long and gloomily gathering, 
now began to burst over the land, and prognosticate the desolation 
which attended the climax of its fury. The domestic felicity of 
Mr. Stockton was necessarily interrupted by the portentous aspect 
of public affairs, which indicated the approach of extensive private 
and political calamity. Holding a high and honourable station 
under the government of a monarch whose personal character he 
greatly respected, although he believed him to be misled by a cor- 
rupt ministry, and who had honoured him with especial marks of 
confidence, he was now compelled either to renounce his allegiance 
to that sovereign, or depart from the duties which he owed to his 
native land, and dissolve the ties that bound him to a country which 
contained the sepulchres of his ancestors. 

Although the sacrifice may have been painful, it was made cheerfully 
and without hesitation. When the counsels of the Marquis of Rock 


ingham, the Earl of Chatham, and other British patriots, were re- 
jected, and he discovered that the British ministry had again resolved 
to enforce the odious right which they claimed of taxing the Ameri- 
can colonics without their own consent, or granting them any repre- 
sentation in parliament, he promptly selected the course of conduct 
which he conceived it his duty to adopt. Although he had received 
numerous indications of official favour and personal attention from 
the king and many of the most eminent statesmen of the British 
empire, yet after contributing his strenuous exertions, in the first 
stages of the dispute, to effect a reconciliation between the mother 
country and the colonies, on principles consistent with civil liberty 
and the just rights of his country, he considered himself bound by 
paramount obligations, when the crisis of serious contest had ar- 
rived, to enrol himself among the defenders of American freedom. 
Separating, therefore, from his fellow members of the royal council, 
to whom as individuals he was warmly attached, but who, with the 
exception of Lord Stirling, John Stevens, and himself, were all 
loyalists or neutral, he exerted himself on all proper occasions 
among the primary assemblies of the people, to procure the organi- 
zation of a prudent and well-directed opposition to the arbitrary 
measures of the British ministry. 

On the twenty-first of June, 1776, the public confidence reposed 
in the patriotism, firmness, and abilities of Mr. Stockton, was 
honourably manifested by the proceedings of the provincial con- 
gress of New Jersey, which elected him a member of the general 
congress then sitting in the city of Philadelphia. Among his col- 
leagues was the Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, to whose happy emigration 
to America he is supposed to have been peculiarly instrumental. 
He, in conjunction with his fellow delegates from New Jersey, was 
empowered and directed to unite with the representatives of the 
other colonies in the most vigorous measures for supporting the just 
rights and liberties of America, and, if it should be deemed neces- 
sary or expedient, to concur in declaring the United Colonies inde- 
pendent of Great Britain, entering into a confederation for union 
and common defence, making treaties for commerce and assistance, 
and adopting such other measures as might appear necessary to 
effect the accomplishment of these great designs. 

Mr. Stockton immediately took his seat in the continental con- 
gress, and was present at the debates which preceded the promul- 
gation of that memorable charter of national independence to which 
his name is affixed. It has been remarked by Dr. Benjamin Rush, 


who was a member of the same congress, that Mr. Stockton was 
silent during the firsi stages of this momentous discussion, listening 
with thoughtful and respectful attention to the arguments that were 
offered by the supporters and opponents of the important measure 
then under consideration. Although it is believed that, in the com- 
mencement of the debate, he entertained some doubts as to the 
policy of an immediate declaration of independence, yet in the pro- 
gress of the discussion his objections were entirely removed, parti- 
cularly by the irresistible and conclusive arguments of John Adams, 
and he fully concurred in the final vote in favour of that bold and 
decisive measure. This concurrence he expressed in a short but 
energetic address, which he delivered in congress towards the close 
of the debate. 

He manifested his accustomed diligence and ability in the per- 
formance of his congressional duties, and was frequently appointed 
on the more important committees. His acute perceptions, logical 
powers of reasoning, superior eloquence, remarkable sagacity, and 
matured experience of men and things, united with a profound 
knowledge of law and politics, were properly appreciated by his 
associates, among whom he held a distinguished rank. 

In the month of September, 1776, at the first joint meeting of the 
state delegates under the new constitution, William Livingston and 
Mr. Stockton were the first republican candidates for the office of 
governor. On the first ballot they received an equal number of 
votes: but, as the emergency of the crisis required an immediate 
nomination, the friends of Mr. Stockton were induced to acquiesce 
in the final election of his competitor. He was, however, immedi- 
ately chosen, by a unanimous vote, chief justice of the state, which 
office he declined. 

Mr. Stockton, during the summer and autumn of 1776, continued 
an assiduous and laborious attendance on his duties in congress. 
On the twenty-sixth of September he was deputed, in conjunction 
with his friend and fellow member, George Clymer, of Pennsylvania, 
on a committee to inspect the northern army, and report to congress 
the state of the army, and any further regulations which they might 
think necessary for its better government and supply. They pro- 
ceeded to Albany, Saratoga, &c. and every facility to effect the im- 
portant objects of their mission was afforded by the polite attentions 
and cordial concurrence of General Schuyler, who commanded the 
northern army. This service having been discharged in a success- 
T 2 


ful and exemplary manner, Mr. Stockton immediately resumed his 
seat in congress. 

A paramount duty soon required his absence from the public 
councils. The residence of his wife and infant family being in the 
direct route of the triumphant enemy, he was compelled lo make 
preparations for removing them to a place of safety. After remain- 
ing in his dwelling to the last period that the safety of his family 
admitted, affording to the remnant of our distressed army every as- 
sistance within his power, as the dejected troops passed along in 
melancholy succession, he conveyed his wife and younger children 
into the county of Monmouth, about thirty miles from the supposed 
route of the British army. 

On the thirtieth of November, he was, together with his friend 
and compatriot John Covenhoven, at whose house he resided, un- 
fortunately captured by a party of refugee royalists, through the 
treachery of a man acquainted with the place of his temporary resi- 
dence, dragged from his bed by night, stripped and plundered of 
bis property, and carried by the way of Amboy to New York. At 
Amboy he was exposed to the severity of extremely cold weather, 
in the common jail, which barbarity, together with his subsequent 
treatment in New York, laid the foundation of the disease which 
terminated his existence in 1781. On his removal to New York, 
he was ignominiously consigned to the common prison, and without 
the least regard for his rank, age, and delicate health, for some 
time treated with unusual severity. He was not only deprived of 
the comforts, but the necessaries of life, having been left more than 
twenty-four hours without food, and afterward afforded a very coarse 
and limited supply. The inhuman treatment which he received, so 
repugnant to the principles of civilized warfare, and so intolerable 
to an individual who had been accustomed to all the comforts and 
delicacies of life, depressed his spirits and seriously affected his 

So excessively malignant, indeed, was the conduct of the British 
in relation to Mr. Stockton, that it attracted the special attention of 
the general congress, who immediately passed the following resolu- 
tion, which still appears on their journals. 

"Whereas congress hath received information that the honourable 
Richard Stockton, of New Jersey, and a member of this congress, 
bath been made a prisoner by the enemy, and that he hath been 
ignominiously thrown into a common jail, and there detained: Re- 
solved, that General Washington be directed to make immediate 


inquiry into the truth of this report, and if he finds reason to be- 
lieve it well founded, that he send a flag to General Howe remon- 
strating against this departure from that humane procedure which 
has marked the conduct of these states to prisoners who have fallen 
into their hands ; and to know of General Howe whether he chooses 
this shall be the future rule for treating all such, on both sides, as 
the fortune of war may place in the hands of either party." 

After the release of Mr. Stockton, his constitution was so materi- 
ally impaired that he never was again able, except by occasional 
counsel and advice, to render any important services to his country. 
In fact, during the few remaining years of his life, he was never 
perfectly restored to health. His fortune, which had been ample, 
was greatly diminished, both by the depreciation of continental 
enrrency, and the wanton depredations of the British army. His 
papers and library, one of the best possessed by any private citizen 
at that period, were burned ; his domestic animals, (particularly his 
fine stock of horses,) and almost all his personal property, were 
plundered or destroyed, and his farm laid waste. Mr. Stockton now 
found himself the proprietor of little more than his devastated lands, 
and was compelled to have recourse to the temporary aid of some 
of his friends, whose losses had been less extensive, for a present 
supply of such articles of necessity as were essential to relieve the 
pressure of absolute suffering. 

It is not remarkable that these complicated afflictions entirely 
destroyed his health and spirits, during the declining years of his 
life. He languished a long time, oppressed with a protracted 
malady ; the last stages of this, too, were rendered particularly dis- 
tressing by a malignant cancerous affection, the pain of which was 
so extreme that he could not enjoy the least repose without the aid 
of anodyne medicines. He died on the twenty-eighth day of Feb- 
ruary, 1781, at his residence near Princeton in the county of Somer- 
set, in the fifty-first year of his age. Previous to interment, his 
remains were conveyed to the college hall, where, in the presence 
of a numerous and afflicted audience, consisting of the friends, rela- 
tives, and fellow citizens of the deceased patriot, and the students 
of the college, an interesting funeral discourse was delivered by the 
Rev. Dr. Samuel S. Smith, then vice president of that celebrated 
seat of science. 

Mr. Stockton was at all times a sensible and dignified speaker, 
remarkable for solidity, perspicuity, and energy. He was a pro- 
found and erudite lawyer, and his decisions and opinions while on 


the bench, in committees of congress, on admiralty questions, and 
in the high court of errors of New Jersey, were considered of high 

Mr. Stockton, when unadorned by the gorgeous robes of judicial 
office that prevailed previous to the revolution, was neat but simple 
in his dress. Before the revolutionary contest, he lived in a state 
of splendour, frequently adopted by distinguished men under the 
royal government, which the advantages of a country residence and 
the possession of affluence rendered easy and agreeable. Every 
stranger who visited his mansion was cordially welcomed in the 
genuine style of ancient hospitality, and it was customary in those 
days for travellers and visiters to call upon men of rank. 

He was a man of great coolness and courage. His bodily pow- 
ers, both in relation to strength and agility, were of a very superior 
grade, and he was highly accomplished in all the manly exercises 
peculiar to the period in which he lived : his skill as a horseman 
and swordsman was particularly great. In person he was tall and 
commanding, approaching nearly to six feet in height. His man- 
ners were dignified, simple though highly polished, and to stran- 
gers, at first interview, apparently reserved ; but as the acquaintance 
advanced, they were exceedingly fascinating and accomplished, 
which appeared particularly conspicuous towards his friends and 

His eyes were of a light grey colour, and his physiognomy open, 
agreeable, and manly. When silent, or uninterested in conversa- 
tion, there was nothing remarkably attractive in his countenance, 
but when his mind was excited, his eyes instantly assumed a cor- 
responding brilliancy, his whole appearance became excessively in- 
teresting, and every look and action strongly expressive of such 
emotions as he wished to produce. 

His forensic career was attended with unrivalled reputation and 
success, and he refused to engage in any cause which he knew to 
be unjust, invariably standing forth in the defence of the helpless 
and oppressed. To his superior powers of mind and professional 
learning, he united a flowing and persuasive eloquence, and he was 
a Christian who was an honour to the church. He was a learned, 
firm, and upright judge, and an early and decided opposer of the 
political and oppressive claims of the British parliament. 

The first and richest legacy bequeathed by Mr. Stockton in his 
last testament, illustrates his religious principles, and the importance 
which he attached to the doctrines of the Christian religion. "As 


my children," he observed, " will have frequent occasion of perusing 
this instrument, and may probably be particularly impressed with 
the last words of their father, I think it proper here, not only to 
subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of 
the Christian religion, such as the being of a God, and the univer- 
sal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the Per- 
son, and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the Bless- 
ed Saviour; the necessity of the operations of the divine Spirit, of 
divine faith accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the 
universality of the divine providence; but also, in the bowels of a 
father's affection, to charge and exhort them to remember that "the 
fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." 


It was a distinguished feature in the American revolution <.nat 
religious feeling was closely connected with political action. The 
persecutions which compelled our forefathers to seek the unshackled 
enjoyment of those feelings in the wilderness of the western world, 
were still fresh in the recollection of their descendants, and they 
continued, both by public and private acts, to appeal to the Supreme 
Judge of the world for the rectitude of their intentions, and to placo 
a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence. 

Among those who united the gospel ministry with the labours of 
the patriot, was John W,itherspoon, a man not less distinguished 
in the church than in the annals of America. This eminent indi- 
vidual was born in the parish of Yester, near Edinburgh, on the 
fifth of February, 1722. His parentage was respectable, and the 
family had long possessed a considerable landed estate in the east 
of Scotland. He was lineally descended from the reverend John 
Knox, the hero of the reformation in Scotland, whose daughter, 
Elizabeth, married the celebrated John Welsh, a minister who 
rivalled his father-in-law in genius, piety and zeal: in this line, Dr. 
Witherspoon descended from his honourable ancestry. 

He was placed, at a very early age, at the public school in Had- 
dington, where he rapidly advanced in learning, and acquired repu- 
tation for the native soundness of his judgment, the quickness and 
clearness of his conception, and the assiduity with which he prose- 
cuted his studies. At the age of fourteen years, he was removed 
to the University of Edinburgh, where he attained great credit for 
his diligence in the different branches of learning. He continued 
in the university until the age of twenty-one years, when he was 
licensed to preach the gospel. 

Immediately on the completion of his studies, he was invited to 

become assistant minister to his father, in Yester, with the right of 

succession to the charge ; but he preferred an invitation from the 

parish of Beith in the west of Scotland, where he was ordained, and 


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settled, with the universal approbation of his congregation. In- 
teresting and instructive in the pulpit, he faithfully fulfilled all his 
other parochial duties, and attracted even the fervent attachment 
of the people. His discourses generally embraced those great and 
practical truths of the gospel, which most affect and attract the 
hearts of an audience. 

In the beginning of the year 1746, Dr. Witherspoon became in- 
volved in a very awkward situation, the particulars of which are 
highly interesting. The battle of Falkirk was fought on the seven- 
teenth of January, and he, with several other individuals, who were 
present from curiosity alone, was taken prisoner in the general sweep 
which the rebels made after the battle, and confined in the castle of 
Donne. During his imprisonment several of his companions es- 
caped. Dr. Witherspoon prudently declined the dangerous attempt, 
and patiently awaited his liberation in a safer manner. 

After residing a few years in Beith, he was translated to the 
large and flourishing town of Paisley, justly celebrated for the ex- 
tent, variety, and fineness of its manufactures. Here he lived in 
high reputation and great usefulness, enjoying and deserving the 
affections of his people, until he was called to the presidency of 
the college of New Jersey. 

On the nineteenth of November, 1766, the trustees of the college 
of New Jersey unanimously elected Dr. Witherspoon to the office 
of president, and transmitted a letter to Mr. Stockton, a member 
of the board, then in London, requesting him by personal application 
to solicit a compliance with the wishes of the trustees. Party views 
and feelings were, at this period, mingled with the management of 
the college, and such representations of its state were made to Dr. 
Witherspoon, as were calculated to induce him to refuse the presi- 
dency ; and this effect was actually produced, until his misapprehen- 
sions were removed by an agent of the board. On the first of 
October, 1767, a letter from Dr. Witherspoon was communicated 
to the trustees, in which he declined an acceptance of the president- 
ship of the college. 

Urged however by the representations of those friends whose 
judgment he most respected, and whose friendship he most esteem- 
ed, and animated by the hope that he might repay his sacrifices by 
greater usefulness in the ministry, and in the interests of learning 
in the new world, he finally resolved to waive every other conside- 
ration, to cross the ocean, and to assume the important charge to 
which he had been called by the concurrent wishes of all the friends 


of the college. On the ninth of December, 1767, Mr. Stockton, 
then in London, informed the board of trustees that the difficulties 
which had prevented Dr. Witherspoon's acceptance of the president- 
ship were now removed ; and that, upon a re-election, lie would 
consider it a duty to enter into that public service. This intelligence 
was received with peculiar satisfaction, and he was immediately and 
unanimously re-elected. 

Dr. Witherspoon arrived with his family in Princeton, in August, 
1768, and on the seventeenth of that month was inaugurated at a 
special meeting of the board of trustees. He was the sixth presi- 
dent of the college, from its foundation in 1746 ; his predecessors 
Dickenson, Burr, Edwards, Davies, and Finley, were deservedly 
celebrated for their genius, learning, and piety. The fame of his 
literary character, which had preceded him to this country, brought 
a great accession of students to the institution. This influence was 
greatly increased by the circumstance of his being a foreigner, but 
his reputation was widely extended, and he enjoyed an additional 
advantage by introducing the more recent improvements in the 
system of education. When he assumed his office, his prudence, 
talents, and weight of character not only put an end to party mea- 
sures in the board of trustees, but greatly contributed to produce the 
same effect in the councils of the church to which he belonged. He 
continued to guide the course of education in the institution over 
which he presided, until the revolutionary war suspended his func- 
tions and dispersed the college. 

When the academical shades were deserted, Dr. Witherspoon 
found himself introduced into a new field of labour, and he appeared 
in a character widely different from any in which he had heretofore 
been presented to the public. Yet this new scene gave fresh lustre 
to his fame ; and his talents as a legislator portrayed in vivid colours 
the extent and variety of his mental abilities. Casting aside his 
foreign prejudices, and embracing with facility the ideas and habits 
of a new country, and a new state of society, he became an Ameri- 
can the moment he landed on our shores. Being opposed in prin- 
ciple to the unjust pretensions of the British government, he adopted 
the views, and participated in the councils, of the colonists, in the 
earliest stages of the contest. The citizens of New Jersey, who 
knew and valued his distinguished talents, soon selected him as one 
of the most suitable delegates to the convention which formed their 
republican constitution in 1776. The professors of the law were 
lost in astonishment when he appeared in this respectable assembly 


as profound a civilian as he had hefore been known to be a philoso- 
pher and divine. 

After having taken an active and decided part in the revolutionary 
committees and conventions of the state, he was summoned to the 
discharge of more important duties. On the twenty-first of June, 
1776, the provincial congress of New Jersey, reposing special con- 
fidence in his integrity and patriotism, elected him a delegate to the 
general legislature, with instructions to unite with the delegates from 
the other colonies, in declaring them to be independent of the mo- 
ther country, should such a measure be considered necessary for the 
preservation of their rights and liberties. Dr. Witherspoon took 
his seat in congress, a few days previous to the fourth of July, and 
assisted in those important deliberations which resulted in that deed 
of noble daring, which severed the two countries for ever. When 
a distinguished member of congress said that we were " not yet ripe 
for a declaration of independence," Dr. Witherspoon replied, " in 
my judgment, sir, we are not only ripe, but rotting." 

During the sessions of 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1781, and 1782, 
he continued to represent the state of New Jersey in the general 
congress, with unyielding zeal and perseverance. It is recorded as 
an evidence of his devotion to public affairs, that he sometimes at- 
tended in his seat, without the least intermission, during the whole 
period of his annual appointments. Such close attendance was not 
required by his constituents, nor was it of common occurrence, even 
in that season of heroism and self-denial. The state governments 
duly regarded the private affairs, and provided for the relaxation, 
of the members, by appointing supernumerary congressional dele- 
gates, of whom a certain number was empowered to act as their 
representatives. From New Jersey they were generally five in 
number, but two formed a full delegation : thus by apportioning 
their official term, the weight of political labour became compara- 
tively light, and the division afforded to each member a remission 
from duty during many months in the year. This retirement, how- 
ever, was entirely optional, and Dr. Witherspoon never permitted 
any personal considerations to interfere with the course of his official 
duties. In the month of November, 1782, he finally retired from 
congress, after a long series of important services. The energy, 
promptitude, and talents which he displayed in every branch of 
public business that required his attention, and the political wisdom 
and experience with which he enriched the national council, at- 
tracted the confidence and admiration of his colleagues, and elevated 


him, with rapidity, to the first rank among the assembled sages 
and senators of America. He was always firm in the most gloomy 
and formidable aspects of public affairs, and always discovered the 
greatest power and presence of mind in the most embarrassing situ- 
ations. But the glorious struggle, in which he had participated, was 
drawing to an honourable conclusion, and sensibly feeling, as a sex- 
agenarian, the advances of age, he resolved to resign his seat in 
congress; and, had he not deemed his continued exertions an im- 
perative duty, would have gladly retired, in some measure, from the 
burdens of the college. While he was engaged in serving his country 
in the character of a civilian, he did not lay aside his ministry. He 
eagerly embraced every opportunity of preaching, and of discharging 
the various duties of his station as a gospel minister, which he con- 
sidered as his highest honour. Nor would he ever consent, as some 
other clerical members of congress did, to change, in any particular, 
the dress which distinguished his order. 

It is impossible to specify the numerous services in which he was 
engaged, during his long continuance in congress, but he participa- 
ted largely in the toils of the arduous and expensive mode of pros- 
ecuting the public business, adopted by that body, in the appoint- 
ment of boards and committees. His talents as a politician had 
been thoroughly tested, previous to his emigration, as leader of the 
orthodox party in the church of Scotland ; and he was fully prepared 
to play a much more important part on the theatre of our grand 
revolution, than by displaying his eloquence and sagacity in the 
presbyteries, synods, and general assemblies of Scotland. His 
powers of memory were of vast importance to him in congress. He 
often remarked that he could precisely repeat a speech, or sermon, 
written by himself, by reading it over only three times. The man- 
agement of his memory, and its best application to the interests of 
the cause, were skilfully conducted. He seldom entered fully into 
any debate at first, but reserved himself for a concentrated effort : 
having made himself master of his subject, he methodically com- 
posed a speech, committed it to memory, and delivered it in con- 
gress. Being a ready speaker, and possessing a remarkable talent 
for extemporaneous discourse, he prefaced his written orations, by 
replying to some previous speaker, and dexterously proceeding 
with his prepared speeches, astonished the whole house by the regu- 
lar arrangement of his ideas, his command of language, and his 
precision on subjects of importance. 

On the seventh of October, 1776, he was appointed a member 


of the secret committee, the duties of which required indefatigable 
attention, and were of the first importance in the prosecution of the 
war. In the following month, congress took into consideration the 
lamentable state of the army, which, dispirited by losses and fa- 
tigues, was retreating, almost naked and barefooted, in the cold of 
November, before a numerous, well appointed, and victorious army, 
through a desponding country, " much more disposed to secure 
safety by submission, than to seek it by a manly resistance." A 
great number of troops had disbanded, the terms of service of many 
others had nearly expired, and the army was melting away under 
the influence of this fatal and universal cause. The national legis- 
lature, finding the army on the eve of dissolution, and aware of the 
fearful results which might be produced by a dependence on militia, 
always a more expensive but less efficacious aid than regular for- 
ces, resolved to use every exertion to prevent its farther dismem- 
berment. The commanding general, commissioners, and officers, 
were conjured to recruit, by every means in their power, the regi- 
ments whose terms of service had expired, and Dr. Witherspoon, 
Mr. Paca, and Mr. Ross, were appointed a committee to repair to 
head quarters, and co-operate with General Washington in this im- 
portant business : they were also empowered to inquire into, and 
redress to the utmost of their power, the grievances of the soldiers. 
On the twelfth of December, congress retired to Baltimore, and 
a general expectation prevailed that no effectual resistance could 
be made to the advance of the enemy. But the bold and unexpect- 
ed attacks made at Trenton and Princeton had a most extensive 
influence on the fate of the waf, and created a confidence in the 
body of the people, that proper exertions on their part would be 
crowned with ultimate success : they saved Philadelphia for the 
present winter; they recovered the state of New Jersey; they re- 
vived the drooping spirits of America; and they gave a sensible 
impulse to the recruiting service throughout the United States. 
When re-assembled at Baltimore, congress in their resolutions ex- 
hibited no evidences of confusion or dismay ; and the most judicious 
efforts were made to repair the mischiefs produced by past errors 
in the military system. They sought to remove the despondency 
which was seizing and paralyzing the public mind, by an address to 
the states, in which every argument was suggested which could 
rouse them to vigorous action. This nervous and eloquent appeal 
was prepared by a committee, consisting of Dr. Witherspoon, Mr. 
Richard Henry Lee, and Mr.Adams; who, at the same time, were 


charged with framing a recommendation to the several states, to 
appoint a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. In the year 
1777, he continued to serve on various important committees, and 
was particularly active as a member of the board of war. 

On the twenty-first of January, 1778, the board of war submitted 
a report to congress, relative to American prisoners in the power 
of the enemy. Congress also appointed a committee, consisting 
of Dr. Witherspoon, Mr. J. B. Smith, Mr. Lovel, and Mr. G. Morris, 
to prepare a manifesto on the injurious treatment received by the 
American prisoners. On the thirtieth of the following October, 
this eloquent protestation was promulgated by the unanimous con- 
sent of congress. From the fervid strain of piety in which it is 
couched, and the solemnity of the appeals to "that Being who is 
equally the father of All," it would seem to be the work of one of 
His ministers; and it may, perhaps, be safely assumed to be the 
production of Dr. Witherspoon, especially as it is well known that 
the admirable publications of congress, calling their constituents to 
seasons of fasting and prayer, came from his pen. It concludes in 
the following manner : " While the shadow of hope remained that 
our enemies could be taught by our example, to respect those laws 
which are held sacred among civilized nations, and to comply with 
the dictates of a religion which they pretend, in common with us, 
to believe and revere, they have been left to the influence of that 
religion and that example. But since their incorrigible dispositions 
cannot be touched by kindness and compassion, it becomes our duty, 
by other means, to vindicate the rights of humanity — We, there- 
fore, the congress of the United States of America, do solemnly de- 
clare and proclaim, that if our enemies presume to execute their 
threats, or persist in their present career of barbarity, we will take 
such exemplary vengeance as shall deter others from a like conduct. 
We appeal to that God who searcheth the hearts of men, for the 
rectitude of our intentions ; and in his holy presence declare, that 
as we are not moved by any light and hasty suggestions of anger 
or revenge, so, through every possible change of fortune, we will 
adhere to this our determination." 

On the twenty-seventh of August, 1778, Dr. Witherspoon was 
appointed, together with Robert Morris, Elbridge Gerry, Richard 
Henry Lee, and Gouverneur Morris, to consider the state of the 
money and finances of the United States, and report thereon, from 
time to time ; and on the twenty-fifth of November, he submitted to 
congress, powers to the delegates of New Jersey to ratify the arti- 


cles of confederation and perpetual union. On the subsequent day, 
he signed that feeble instrument, which, however, was not rendered 
complete until the accession of the state of Maryland, on the first 
of March, 1781. In the year 1779, he particularly distinguished 
himself as a member of the committee appointed to devise means 
for procuring supplies for the army, in which duty he was ably as- 
sisted by the financial knowledge of Gouverneur Morris, and the 
economical principles of Roger Sherman. 

After the first, or second, emission, Dr. Witherspoon resolutely 
opposed (and even hazarded his popularity by the strenuousness of 
his opposition) all further issues of the paper currency which inflicted 
so deep a wound on public credit, and occasioned so much private 
distress. To liquidate the expenses of the war, immense sums 
were emitted in bills of credit, and the same method was adopted 
by the respective states to provide for their internal wants. At 
length ibis paper currency, unsupported by solid funds, and resting 
solely on public credit, was multiplied beyond the rules of sound 
policy, and having exceeded the useful demand for it as a medium 
of commerce, it became proportionally reduced. The arts of open 
and secret enemies, the disgraceful avidity of professed friends, 
and the scarcity of foreign commodities, were assigned by congress 
as additional causes of the depreciation of the currency, which in- 
volved consequences equally obvious and alarming. On the twenty- 
third of June, 1775, the first emission of two millions of dollars 
took place ; and on the twenty-ninth of November, 1779, the date 
of the final issue, the aggregate of the bills, then in circulation, 
amounted to two hundred millions of dollars : of this sum 63,500, 
300 dollars were emitted in the year 1778, and 140,052,480 dollars, 
in 1779. This vast quantity of bills had been unavoidably issued 
at a time when no regular civil government existed, possessing suf- 
ficient energy to enforce the collection of taxes, or to provide funds 
for their redemption. 

All the talents and influence of Dr. Witherspoon were opposed 
to this destructive system of emissions, in every stage of its pro- 
gress ; and he denounced it as precisely adapted, if any thing could 
do it, to defeat the revolution. Instead of the issues of unfunded 
paper, beyond a certain quantum, he urged the propriety of making 
loans, and establishing funds for the payment of the interest; and 
deeply has America lamented that this policy had not been pursued. 
He subsequently, at the instance of some of the very gentlemen who 
opposed him in congress, published his ideas on the nature, value, 
30 u 2 


and uses of money, in one of the most clear and judicious essays that 
had, perhaps, ever been written on the subject. 

The argumentative eloquence of Dr. Witherspoon, and his few as- 
sociates was unable to check those measures of congress in relation 
to the finances, tending to destroy public credit, which, although, 
unavoidable in principle, he believed to be susceptible of salutary 

Dr. Witherspoon warmly maintained the absolute necessity of 
union, to impart vigour and success to the measures of government ; 
and he strongly combated the opinion expressed in congress, that 
a lasting confederacy among the states, for their future security and 
improvement, was impracticable. He declared that such sentiments 
were calculated greatly to derange the minds of the people, and 
weaken their efforts in defence of the country. " I confess," said 
he, " it would to me greatly diminish the glory and importance of 
the struggle, whether considered as for the rights of mankind in 
general, or for the prosperity and happiness of this continent in 
future times. It would quite depreciate the object of hope, as well 
as place it at a greater distance. For what would it signify to risk 
our possessions, and shed our blood, to set ourselves free from the 
encroachments and oppression of Great Britain, with a certainty, as 
soon as peace was settled with them, of a more lasting war, — a 
more unnatural, more bloody, and much more hopeless war, among 
the colonies themselves? Some of us consider ourselves as acting 
for posterity at present, having little expectation of living to see all 
things fully settled, and the good consequences of liberty taking ef- 
fect. But how much more uncertain the hope of seeing the eternal 
contests of the colonies settled upon a lasting and equitable footing ?" 
— "If, at present, when the danger is yet imminent, when it is so 
far from being over, that it is but coming to its height, we shall 
find it impossible to agree upon the terms of this confederacy, what 
madness is it to suppose that there ever will be a time, or that cir- 
cumstances will so change as to make it even probable, that it will 
be done at an after season ? Will not the very same difficulties 
that are in our way, be in the way of those who shall come after 
us? Is it possible that they should be ignorant of them, or inatten- 
tive to them? Will they not have the same jealousies of each other, 
the same attachment to local prejudices, and particular interests? 
So certain is this, that I look upon it as on the repentance of a sin- 
ner ; every day's delay, though it adds to the necessity, yet augments 
the difficulty, and takes from the inclination." 


A sentiment expressed in this debate, that it was to be expected 
from the nature of men, that a time must come when a confederacy 
would be dissolved and broken to pieces, and which seemed to cre- 
ate an indifference as to the success of the measure, produced the 
following burst of eloquence: "I am none of those who either deny 
or conceal the depravity of human nature, till it is purified by the 
light of truth, and renewed by the spirit of the living God. Yet I 
apprehend there is no force in that reasoning at all. Shall we es- 
tablish nothing good because we know it cannot be eternal? Shall 
we live without government because every constitution has its old 
age and its period ? Because we know that we shall die, shall we 
take no pains to preserve, or lengthen out, life ? Far from it Sir : — 
it only requires the more watchful attention to settle the government 
on the best principles, and in the wisest manner, that it may last as 
long as the nature of things will admit." Dr. Withe rspoon con- 
cluded his eloquent arguments in favour of a well-planned confedera- 
tion, in the following terms: " For all these reasons, Sir, I humbly 
apprehend that every argument from honour, interest, safety, and 
necessity, conspire in pressing us to a confederacy; and if it be 
seriously attempted, I hope, by the blessing of God upon our en- 
deavours, it will be happily accomplished." 

But although he supported the necessity of a well-organized 
system of union, he opposed and lamented, in the subsequent for- 
mation of the original confederation, the jealousy and ambition of 
the individual states, which were unwilling to intrust the general 
government with adequate powers for the common interest. He 
passed judgment of inefficacy upon it, at the moment of its birth; 
but he complained and remonstrated in vain. The ratification of 
this instrument was obtained with much difficulty. The various 
amendments proposed by the states, in some instances conflicting 
with each other, at length successively yielded to the opinion that a 
federal compact would be of great importance in the prosecution 
of the war. On the first of March, 1781, this interesting compact, 
to the great joy of America, was rendered complete. But it was 
not productive of all the benefits which its sanguine advocates had 
expected, and the predictions of Dr. Witherspoon were speedily 
and fearfully fulfilled. On the third day of February, a short time 
previous to the completion of the confederacy, he made a fresh 
attempt to enlarge the powers of congress, and establish a perma- 
nent fund for discharging, in part, the principal and interest of the 
national debt. He urged that it was indispensably necessary that 


congress should be vested with the right of superintending the com- 
mercial regulations of every state, so that none might take place 
inimical to the common interest: and that they should he vested 
with the exclusive right of laying duties on all imported articles ; 
no restriction to be valid, and no such duty to be laid, without the 
consent of nine states. On the question to agree to this motion, 
with certain restrictions, it was decided in the negative; and a reso- 
lution was substituted, and passed on the same day, recommending 
to the several states, as indispensably necessary, to vest a power in 
congress to levy a duty of five per cent, ad valorem on certain im- 
ported articles, for the use of the United States. This recommen- 
dation was never complied with. Had the policy proposed by Dr. 
Withcrspoon been pursued, a large share of the difficulties which 
ensued would have been evaded. But a disposition in the members 
of congress, growing inevitably out of the organization of the go- 
vernment, to consult the will of the states from which they were 
delegated, and perhaps to prefer their accommodation to any other 
object, however essential to the whole, had discovered itself at an 
early period, and had gained strength with time. Hence the nation 
was thrown at the feet of the states, where the vital principle of 
power, the right to levy taxes, was exclusively placed; and it was 
scarcely possible to advance a single step, but under the guidance 
of the respective states. 

Dr. Withcrspoon had many able coadjutors to support his parti- 
cular and incessant remonstrances against the tardy, insufficient, and 
faithless manner in providing for the public exigencies and debts, 
by requisitions on the states. He insisted on the propriety and ne- 
cessity of the government of the union holding in its own hands the 
entire regulation of commerce, and the revenues that might be de- 
rived from that source : these, he contended, would be adequate to 
all the wants of the United States in a season of peace. Overruled, 
however, at that time, in these, and in other objects of importance, 
he had the satisfaction of living to see America revert, in almost 
every instance, to his original ideas ; ideas founded on a sound and 
penetrating judgment, and matured by deep reflection, and an ex- 
tensive observation of men and things. To the judicious patriots 
throughout America, the necessity of giving greater powers to the 
federal head became every day more apparent ; as well as the im- 
practicability of continuing the war much longer, if the resources of 
the country were entirely controlled by thirteen independent sove- 
reignties. But the efforts of enlightened individuals were too weak 


to correct that fatal disposition of power which had been made in 
the first instance, and the impolicy of which was now in vain mani- 
fested by experience. Dr. Withcrspoon, a leader of the party op- 
posed to the predominant state influence, might well have exclaimed 
in the words of Washington — "I see one head gradually changing 
into thirteen. I see one army branching into thirteen ; and, instead 
of looking up to congress as the supreme controlling power of the 
United States, considering themselves as dependent on their respec- 
tive states. In a word, I see the power of congress declining too 
fast for the consequence and respect which are due to them as the 
great representative body of America, and am fearful of the con- 

On the voluntary retirement of Dr. Witherspoon from congress 
at the close of the year 1779, he determined to give particular at- 
tention to the revival of the institution over which he presided. The 
immediate care of recommencing the course of instruction was com- 
mitted to the charge of his son-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Smith, 
a man of distinguished genius and learning. In the month of De- 
cember, 1779, he resigned his house on the college grounds to Vibe 
President Smith, and retired to his country seat, situated about one 
mile from, and in full sight of, Princeton : but his name continued to 
add celebrity to the institution, and it rapidly regained its former 
reputation. Retirement was a happiness towards which he had 
long looked with pleasing anticipations. In announcing his removal 
to Tusculum, his country house, he makes the following remarks in 
a letter to a friend : " This I have had in view for some years, and 
intend to spend the remainder of my life, if possible, in olio cum 
dignitalc. You know I was always fond of being a scientific farmer. 
That disposition has not lost, but gathered strength, since my being 
in America. In this respect, I received a dreadful stroke indeed, 
from the English, when they were here ; they having seized and 
mostly destroyed my whole stock, and committed such ravages that 
we are not yet fully recovered from it." 

But he was not long permitted to enjoy the peaceful happiness of 
his classical retreat. The voice of his countrymen again summoned 
him to the national council in the year 1781, and when he finally 
retired, at the close of 1782, it was to resume only for a short season 
the tranquil pleasures of Tusculum. In the year 1783, he was in- 
duced, contrary to his own judgment, to cross the ocean to endeavour 
to promote the benefit of the college. The idea of obtaining funds 
in its behalf, in Great Britain, when the angry sensations excited 


by a long war, and the recent dismemberment of the empire, had 
not yet subsided, was more than visionary. Overruled, however, 
by the persuasion of his friends, and influenced by his warm attach- 
ment to the institution, he embarked in December, 1783 ; and in 
the sixtieth year of his age braved the dangers and privations 
of the sea, to advance the progress of learning in America. The 
result of his mission accorded with his expectations. Little more 
than the amount of his necessary expenses was obtained ; but not- 
withstanding this want of success, his enterprise and zeal are not 
less deserving of commendation. He returned to this country pre- 
vious to the commencement at Nassau Hall, in September, 1784, 
having been absent about nine months. Finding nothing to obstruct 
his entering into that retirement, which was now become more dear 
to him, he withdrew, in a great measure, except on important 
occasions, from the exercise of those public functions that were 
not immediately connected with the duties of his office, as pre- 
sident of the college, or with his character, as a minister of the 

Notwithstanding his high talents and political character, many 
believed that the principal merit of Dr. Witherspoon appeared in 
the pulpit. He was, in many respects, one of the best models by 
which a young clergyman could form himself for usefulness and 
celebrity. It was a singular benefit to the whole college, but espe- 
cially to those who had the profession of the ministry in view, to have 
such an example constantly before them. Religion, from the man- 
ner in which he treated it, always commanded the respect of those 
who heard him, even when it was not able to engage their hearts. 
Dr. Witherspoon was a prominent member of the councils and courts 
of the church, and took an active part in the ecclesiastical politics 
of his native country. In the church judicatories of America, he 
was always upright in his views, firm in his principles, and ready 
to seize, at once, the right point of view on every question. Disen- 
tangling, with facility, the most embarrassed subjects, he was clear 
and conclusive in his reasoning, and, from a peculiar soundness of 
judgment, and a habit of business, skilful in conducting every dis- 
cussion to the most speedy and decisive termination. In fine, the 
church assuredly lost in him one of its greatest lights ; and if the 
term may be used in ecclesiastical affairs, one of its greatest poli- 

As a writer, his style is simple and comprehensive ; his remarks 
judicious, and often refined ; his information accurate and extensive; 


his matter always weighty and important ; his method condensed, 
yet lucid, and well arranged. Simplicity, perspicuity, precision, 
comprehension of thought, and knowledge of the world, and of the 
human heart, prevailed throughout the whole of his extensive writ- 
ings. He is said to have remarked, in relation to them, that "if 
they were remarkable for any thing, it must be for his attention 
to general principles, and not to ramifying his subject." His works 
have not only extended his reputation through Great Britain and 
America, but he is deservedly held in high repute among almost 
all the protestant countries of Europe. 

His sermon entitled " The Dominion of Providence over the 
Passions of Men," preached at Princeton on the seventeenth of 
May, 1776; his treatises on "Justification by free grace, through 
Jesus Christ," and on " The nature and necessity of Regeneration ;" 
and his remarks on " The importance of truth in Religion," or " The 
connexion that subsists between sound principles and a holy prac- 
tice ;" are not surpassed by any theological writings in the English 
language. His farewell sermon, delivered at Paisley in May, 1776, 
and his "Lectures on Divinity," bear the same impress of a gigantic 
mind. The " Essay on the nature, value, and uses of money," al- 
ready adverted to, comprised the substance of the speeches he had 
delivered in congress on this important and intricate question ; and 
is, without dispute, the best that ever appeared in this country, and 
was eminently successful in the development of that intricate subject. 
" The Druid," a series of periodical essays, published by him in the 
year 1781, is particularly useful and interesting: the principal 
themes of this miscellany are literature and morals, arts and industry ; 
the philosophy of human nature and of human life. 

His "Lectures on Moral Philosophy," notwithstanding they as- 
sume the form of regular discourses, were in fact considered by him 
as little more than a syllabus or compendium, on which he might 
enlarge before a class at the time of recitation : thus, he once com- 
pelled a printer, who, without his knowledge, had undertaken to 
publish them, to desist from the design. Not a few, however, whose 
eminence in literature and distinction in society, entitle their opinions 
to great consideration, have maintained that these lectures, with all 
their imperfections, contain one of the best and most perspicuous 
exhibitions of the radical principles of the science on which they 
treat, that has ever been made. The surprising resemblance which 
exists between his " Lectures on Eloquence," and those of Dr. Blair, 
both pursuing the same track, is a striking example of the effect of 


early instruction on the habits of thought in later life. These em- 
inent men were class-mates under the same teacher, but no commu- 
nications on the subject had ever been exchanged ; yet the radical 
ideas, but not the style, are remarkably the same. 

Dr. Withei'spoon was a frequent contributor to the public papers, 
particularly on political- subjects. His " Thoughts on American 
Liberty," written at the dawn of the revolution, depict in striking 
colours the depth of his political foresight, by the recommendation 
of a scries of important measures, almost all of which were sub- 
sequently adopted, at various periods. In the essay " On conducting 
the American controversy," his ideas are not less lucid than saga- 
cious: and his remarks "On the Contest between Great Britain and 
America" tend to establish the fact, that the people of America, so 
far from being seditious and factious, entertained a strong attach- 
ment to the mother country, and attached high feelings of pride to 
their descent ; so much so, indeed, than when an American spoke 
of going to England, he always called it going home. 

Dr. Witherspoon was not a man of the most various and exten- 
sive learning. His intellectual treasures consisted of a mass of in- 
formation well selected and thoroughly digested ; and scarcely any 
individual of the age had a more vigorous mind, or sound under- 
standing. He was well versed in the dead languages, being an 
accurate Latin scholar, and capable of speaking and reading that 
language with facility. He was a good proficient in Greek, presiding 
over the Greek recitations in Longinus, and the higher classics; and 
he taught Hebrew to all those in the college who wished to study it. 
He also read and spoke the French language with accuracy and 
fluency. Although not a mathematician in detail, he had the high- 
est idea of the usefulness and necessity of mathematical knowledge. 
He banished systems of logic altogether from the college, observing 
that Euclid's elements were the best system of logic ever written. 
He was not versed in the details of Natural Philosophy and the 
Natural Sciences, of which he had learned only the general princi- 
ples in the usual course of university education. Although not an 
indiscriminate and enormous reader, he had read, and thoroughly 
digested, the best authors in every department of useful know- 

The eloquence of Dr. Witherspoon was simple and grave, but, 
at the same time, as animated as his constitutional malady would 
permit. It was a kind of Demosthenian eloquence, which made 
the blood "shiver along the arteries:" he could not speak in a loud 


tone of voice, but his articulation was such, that it was distinctly 
audible in the largest church. His discourses commanded univer- 
sal attention, and his manner was altogether irresistible : he never 
indulged in florid flights of fancy, but modelled his oratory accord- 
ing to the plain and comprehensive style of Swift. 

Possessing remarkable frankness of character, Dr. Witherspoon, 
in his moments of relaxation from the great and serious affairs of 
life, was an amusing and instructive companion. His rich fund of 
anecdote was improved by an abundant share of wit; but he was 
far from affecting the character of the latter, and used it with the 
utmost discretion. The following anecdote presents a specimen of 
his good-humoured wit. When Burgoyne's army was captured at* 
Saratoga, General Gates despatched one of his aids to congress to 
carry the intelligence.* The officer, after being delayed by the 
amusements which offered themselves on his way, at length arrived 
at Philadelphia, but the report of the victory had reached there 
several days before. Congress, according to custom, proceeded to 
give the messenger some mark of their esteem. It was proposed 
to present him with an elegant sword ; but Dr. Witherspoon rose, 
and begged leave to move, that instead of a sword, they should pre- 
sent him with a pair of golden spurs. 

Dr. Witherspoon was an affectionate husband, a tender parent, a 
kind master, and a cordial friend. He was twice married. He was 
united to his first wife, named Montgomery, in Scotland, at an early 
age: she was an excellent woman, without much education, but 
eminent for her piety and benevolence. His children, at the period 
of his emigration to America, consisted of three sons and two 
daughters; James, the eldest son, held the rank of major in the 

* The bearer of the despatches was lieutenant-colonel, afterwards Major-General 
Wilkinson. Besides the amusements on the way, there were probably other causes 
of detention operating upon Colonel Wilkinson. Several of the officers inimical to 
Washington as commander-in-chief, were at that time quartered at Reading, Penn- 
sylvania, through which place he passed, and was one of the coterie at Lord Stir- 
liiig's on the twenty-fifth October, when General Conway's letter to General Gates, 
in which he said, "Heaven has been determined to save your country, or a weak 
general and bad counsellors would have destroyed it," was read, and the merits 
and demerits of General Washington in the battle of Brandywine "severely stric- 
tured." On the third of November he delivered his despatches, and the same day 
the new board of war was appointed, consisting entirely of officers opposed to 
General Washington as commander-in-chief, with General Gates for president, and 
Colonel Wilkinson secretary. On the sixth, Wilkinson was brevetted a brigadier- 
general. These facts go further towards accounting for the delay in the t 
than the amusements by the way-side. 

31 V 


revolutionary army, and was killed at the battle of Gerniantown 
John possessed good talents and attainments, and was bred a phy- 
sician. David applied himself to the study of the law, and settled 
in North Carolina, where he became a respectable practitioner. In 
the year 1780, he acted as private secretary to the president of con- 
gress. Ann. the oldest daughter, was married to the Rev. Dr. Sa- 
muel S. Smith, who succeeded Dr. Witherspoon as president of the 
college; and Frances entered into matrimony with Dr. David Ram- 
say, the celebrated historian. His second marriage excited much 
noise and attention, he being at that time seventy, and his wife only 
twenty-three, years of age. Excepting Washington, he is said to 
have possessed more of what is called presence, than almost any other 
man: he was six feet in height, finely proportioned, and remarkably 
dignified in his appearance. It was difficult to trifle in his presence; 
a circumstance which proved highly useful in the government of the 
college, by abashing the impudent and presuming. He had a pretty 
strong Scottish accent, which, however, continued to decrease till 
the day of his death. 

Bodily infirmities began, at length, to fall heavily upon him. For 
more than two years previous to his death, he was afflicted with the 
loss of sight : which contributed to hasten the progress of his other 
disorders. He bore his sufferings with exemplary patience, and 
even cheerfulness; nor would his active mind, and his unabated 
desire of usefulness, permit him, even in this situation, to desist 
from his ministry, and his duties in the college, so far as his health 
and strength would admit. During his blindness, he was frequently 
led into the pulpit, both at home and abroad ; and always acquitted 
himself with his usual accuracy, and not unfrequently with more 
than his usual solemnity and animation. 

On the fifteenth of November, 1794, in the seventy-third year of 
his age, he retired to his eternal rest, full of honours, and full of 
days, there to receive the plaudit of his Lord, "well done, thou 
good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, 
be thou ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy 
Lord." His remains were interred at Princeton, and a Latin epi- 
taph, commr norating his virtues, and the prominent incidents of 
his life, is inscribed upon his tomb. 



Francis Hopkinson was born in Philadelphia, in the year 1737. 
He was the son of Thomas Hopkinson, an English gentleman of 
respectable family and character, who emigrating from Great Bri- 
tain to her colonies in North America, took up his permanent resi- 
dence in that city- His career was bright, but unfortunately short ; 
for he was cut off in the prime of life, leaving the society of which 
he had for a considerable time been the delight, to lament one of 
its most precious ornaments, and a beautiful and accomplished wife 
a solitary widow, embarrassed with the care of providing for, and 
the all-important duty of educating a large family, upon a compara- 
tively limited income. How she acquitted herself of that awful re- 
sponsibility, may be inferred from the character afterwards sustained 
by her offspring, and from the exemplary moral and religious sense 
which has been observed essentially to pervade the writings and 
intellectual effusions of her descendants, and particularly of the 
subject now before us, who was only fourteen years of age at the 
time of his father's death. To the aid of the boy's genius, and of 
the talents derived from his father, this exemplary matron brought 
every assistance that could be derived from her admirable precepts, 
enforced by her own excellent example; and relinquishing for this 
most sacred purpose, every enjoyment and every pursuit which was 
not recommended to her judgment by its direct tendency to the 
accomplishment of this, her most delightful duty, she never suffered 
her attention to relax till, with his manners softened by the purest 
moral habits, and his virtues fenced in from every attack by strict 
religious instruction, she transferred his literary education to the 
college of Philadelphia, afterwards the " University of Pennsylva- 
nia," in the first class of which he graduated, and from which he 
was removed to the study of the law, under an able professor of 
that science. 

His attainments as a lawyer were great, and could have only 
been acquired by studious application to the volumes of jurispru- 



dence; but this did not prevent him from warm devotion to those 
lighter accomplishments, which a natural taste, peculiarly adapted 
to such things, induced him to cultivate; and while he stored his 
mind with the more grave and important knowledge necessary for 
advancing in his profession, he by no means neglected those embel- 
lishments which were better calculated, not only to gratify his own 
fancy, but to captivate the general circle of society. His talents 
ample, quick, and versatile, and his powers readily adapted to the 
acquisition and digestion of any and every art and science, grasped 
with avidity whatever was presented to them, and made them their 
own; for it appears from the accounts given of him by Dr. Ben- 
jamin Rush, one of the most sagacious and discriminating of his con- 
temporaries, who for the greater part of his life was personally 
acquainted with him, that " he excelled in musifc and poetry, and 
had some knowledge in painting. These arts, however," he con- 
tinues, "did not monopolize all the powers of his mind; he was well 
skilled in many practical and useful sciences, particularly mathe- 
matics and natural philosophy, and he had a general acquaintance 
with the principles of anatomy, chemistry, and natural history. But 
his forte was humour and satire, in both of which he was not sur- 
passed by Lucian, Swift, or Rabelais. These extraordinary powers 
were consecrated to the advacement of the interests of patriotism, 
virtue, and science." 

In the year 1766, Mr. Hopkinson determined to pay a visit to the 
land of his forefathers, and before his departure from his native 
city, received a tribute to his excellence and worth, not often be- 
stowed, and singularly honourable to him. We have already men- 
tioned that his education was completed in the college of Philadel- 
phia; and it is among the records of a public commencement of 
that institution, held on the twentieth of May, 1766, that the board 
of trustees, comprising the governor, chief justice, and most dis- 
tinguished men of the province, passed the following resolution. 
" After the business of the commencement was finished, it was re- 
solved, that as Francis Hopkinson, (who was the first scholar entered 
in this seminary at its opening, and likewise, one of the first who 
received a degree in it,) was about to embark for England, and has 
always done honour to the place of his education by his abilities 
and good morals, as well as rendered it many substantial services 
on all public occasions, the thanks of this institution ought to be 
delivered to him in the most affectionate and respectful manner; 
and Mr. Stedman and the provost are desired to communicate the 


same to Mr. Hopkinson accordingly, and wisli him a safe and pros- 
perous voyage." 

He remained in England upwards of two years, dividing his time 
between his relations, alternately in the vast metropolis of London, 
and the delightful vales of Worcestershire, and on his return to 
America, about the year 1768, married Miss Ann Borden, of Bor- 
dentown, in the state of New Jersey. He was not, however, per- 
mitted long to pursue undisturbed, either the professional occupa- 
tions of his private life, or the public duties of the offices which had 
been conferred on him; both were invaded by the unjustifiable en- 
croachments of the British government; and both he was obliged 
to sacrifice in the cause of his country. In the year 1776, he was 
chosen by the state of New Jersey as one of her representatives in 
congress ; in this capacity he voted for and subscribed the ever me- 
morable Declaration of Independence. 

Nor was it in his own state only, that this esteem and confidence 
in him existed; the state of Pennsylvania, of which indeed he was 
a native, but where he had in a great degree ceased to reside, sought 
his public services, even whilst he held his appointment under New 
Jersey. Mr. Ross, the judge of the admiralty, having retired from 
office, the president of Pennsylvania wrote to Mr. Hopkinson on the 
fourteenth of July, 1779, requesting permission to nominate him as 
his successor; receiving his consent, the appointment was unani- 
mously made two days after, and he held it with high credit to him- 
self and benefit to the country, for ten years, until the organization 
of the federal government. 

Upon this event, of course the office which Mr. Hopkinson held, 
expired; but General Washington had scarcely entered upon his 
duties as president of the United States, under the new constitution, 
when he addressed him a letter not only honourable to him, but in 
itself one of the noblest testimonies perhaps ever given to the pub- 
lic, of the perfect purity and noble motives which governed every 
official action of that distinguished man. It has never yet been 
published, and is in the following terms : — 

" Sir, — I have the pleasure to enclose to you a commission as 
judge of the United States for the district of Pennsylvania, to which 
office I have nominated, and with the advice and consent of the 
senate have appointed you. In my nomination of persons to fill 
offices in the judicial department, I have been guided by the impor- 
tance of the object. Considering it as of the first magnitude, and 
as the pillar upon which our political fabric must rest, I have endea- 
v 2 


voured to bring into the high offices of its administration such cha- 
racters as will give stability and dignity to our national government; 
and I persuade myself they will discover a due desire to promote 
the happiness of our country, by a ready acceptance of their seve- 
ral appointments. The laws which have passed relative to your 
office accompany the commission." 

While Mr. Hopkinson held his judicial offices, he avoided, pro- 
perly, all minute interference in party or occasional politics, though 
he was always active and useful when he deemed his services 
necessary to the public good. His favourite instrument, on such 
occasions, had always been the lively vein of satire. As early as 
the year 1774, he had commenced this species of hostility on the 
common enemy, the British, by an ingenious production, which he 
called "A pretty story." In this, by a pleasant allegory, he repre- 
sented some of the many grievances the colonies laboured under, 
previous to the revolution, and which shortly after occasioned their 
disunion from the empire. As the piece was precisely adapted to 
the feelings of the times, and contained statements of incontroverti- 
ble facts, conveyed in a lively and humorous form, it was sought 
after with avidity, and read with approbation by every class of the 
community. His letters to James Rivington, printer of the Royal 
Gazette, at New York; his epistle to Lord Howe; his two Letters 
by a Tory; his translation of a Letter written by a Foreigner on 
his Travels ; his Political Catechism, and several other pieces, were 
written during this period, and had a great tendency to the comple- 
tion of this object. The last of these is called " The New Roof," 
a pleasing little allegory, containing, in substance, the principal 
arguments used in the convention of Pennsylvania, assembled in 
1778, to consider the frame of government for the United States, 
drawn up by the general convention of the United States, and by 
them recommended to the people at large. It is upon this piece 
Dr. Rush observed, that it " must last as long as the citizens of the 
United States continue to admire, and to be happy under the present 
national government." 

He wrote several other essays, arising in political dissensions, but 
which, being founded on no important transaction of the state, and 
turning chiefly upon personal ridicule, have lost much of their in- 
terest : one, however, deserves to be particularized, being distin- 
guished for the severe pungency of its satire, and bears the title of 
"A Specimen of a modern Lawsuit:" this is a piece of admirable 
humour; the objects of his ridicule could not be mistaken; the man- 


ners of the judges, and the learned counsel engaged to argue the 
important cause between Laurence Landlord and Timothy Tenant, 
are sketched to nature; and the dramatic form in which the case is 
reported, conveys us immediately to a court of justice, and makes 
the humour irresistible to any person acquainted with legal pro- 

Among the published writings of Mr. Hopkinson, is the Essay on 
White-washing. This has been frequently reprinted in different 
periodical journals, not only in America, but in England, and the 
humour still remains as excellent as it was at the time of its first 
publication. How it came to be inserted in Dr. Franklin's works, 
we have yet to learn. 

Of his poetry, the greatest praise which can justly be bestowed 
upon it seems to be, that the versification is easy, but that the sub- 
jects upon which it was employed, being generally occasional, it 
cannot afford much interest beyond the immediate circle acquainted 
with the facts. The humorous ballad called the Battle of the Kegs, 
was very popular at the time of its publication, and still retains its 
station among poems of this description ; Mr. Hopkinson, indeed, 
is better known by this, than all his other poems ; his L'AUcgro and 
II Penseroso too are imitations so graphic and agreeable, that thev 
might be quoted throughout with satisfaction and confidence. 

The various labours of Mr. Hopkinson, both as a public servant, 
and a lively and useful man of letters, had been rewarded with many 
plentiful harvests of well-earned fame ; but his death was at last 
premature to himself, his friends and his country. Though subject 
for some time to frequent attacks of gout in his head, he had latterly 
enjoyed a considerable respite from them. On Sunday evening, 
however, being the eighth of May, 1791, he was somewhat indis- 
posed, and passed a restless night after he went to bed. He rose 
the next morning as early as usual, and breakfasted with the family. 
At seven o'clock he was seized with an apoplectic fit, which in two 
hours put a period to his existence, in the fifty-third year of his age. 

His person was a little below the common size. His features 
were small, but extremely animated. His speech was quick, and 
all his motions seemed to partake of the unceasing activity and ver- 
satility of the powers of his mind. His disposition and demeanour 
were marked by benignity and kindness, and the following anecdote 
will be deemed rather apposite and affecting than trivial, since it 
displays them in so amiable a light. He was accustomed to cherish 
an acquaintance with a little mouse, which would come from its 


hiding place and sit by him at his meals, in order to receive the 
crumbs with which its boldness was plentifully rewarded. His 
pigeons also became so much attached to him, from his constant at- 
tention to them, that, when he walked in the yard, they would alight 
on his person, and contend for a place, crowding upon his head, 
shoulders, arms, and indeed wherever they could rest. 

He was always distinguished as a man of great taste, fond of 
science, when he had leisure to devote himself to it, and acute and 
clear in his professional exertions. His skill in music was consider- 
able, and the airs which he composed for his own songs rendered 
them doubly popular. At a time when the rudeness and poverty of 
the country permitted few to devote themselves to the cultivation of 
the arts, Mr. Hopkinson gave to them all the attention which it was 
possible to bestow. 

Mr. Hopkinson possessed uncommon talents for pleasing in com- 
pany. His wit was not of that coarse kind which was calculated to 
" set the table in a roar." It was mild and elegant, and infused 
cheerfulness, and a species of delicate joy, rather than mirth, into 
the hearts of all who heard it. His empire over the attention and 
passions of his company was not purchased at the expense of inno- 
cence. They who have passed man}' delightful hours in his society, 
declare that he was never once heard to use a profane expression, 
nor utter a word that would have made a lady blush, or have clouded 
her countenance for a moment with a look of disapprobation. It is 
this species of wit alone that indicates a rich and powerful imagina- 
tion, while that which is tinctured with profanity, or indelicacy, ar- 
gues poverty of genius, inasmuch as they have both been con- 
sidered, very properly, as the cheapest products of the mind. 

Mr. Hopkinson left behind him at his death, a widow, and five 
children, two sons and three daughters. Of these the eldest, the 
late Judge Hopkinson, is well known as the distinguished successor 
of his father's talents and honours, uniting the same quickness and 
brilliancy of genius, the same taste and fondness for the arts, with 
superior success as an advocate at the bar, an orator in the public 
councils of the nation, and a judge upon the bench which had been 
dignified by the virtues of his father. 


If those who administered the British government in the early 
part of the reign of George the Third had been well informed of the 
real character of that party in the colonies, which opposed their 
pretensions to the exercise of unlimited power, they would have seen 
the impracticability of their scheme, if they had not been convinced 
of its injustice. 

They were not aware that prudent and unambitious men — esta- 
blished land-holders, deeply interested in the preservation of tran- 
quillity — had rallied round that standard of resistance which they 
supposed to be supported only by needy adventurers, or noisy dema- 
gogues, to whom any change might bring an improvement of con- 

One of the patriots that voluntarily incurred the greatest degree 
of suffering, without the possibility of any individual gain, was John 
Hart, a member of that congress which issued the memorable De- 
claration of Independence. 

He was the son of Edward Hart, of Hopewell township and Hun- 
terdon county in New Jersey, from whom he inherited a consider- 
able patrimonial estate, and a spirit that would have been worthy of 
the best days of ancient Rome. 

During the war with France, Edward Hart was one of those brave 
and loyal colonists who generously lent their aid to the military ope- 
rations of England : — aid that was gladly received and emphatically 
acknowledged, but never recompensed, by the royal government. 
He exerted himself in the cause of the mother country, so far as to 
raise a corps of volunteers, called the Jersey Blues ; a name that 
they first bore, but which has become a favourite military designa- 
tion since that period. With this corps he marched into Canada, 
and arrived before Quebec in time to participate in the victory 
which closed the mortal career of General Wolfe. 

John Hart, the son, did not join in these military expeditions, but 
was quietly cultivating a farm of four hundred acres, which he had 
32 323 


purchased. He had married a lady of respectable connexions and 
great amiability of character, named Deborah Scudder, and was 
surrounded by a numerous family of sons and daughters. In the 
enjoyment, therefore, of domestic happiness, and engrossed by the 
cares of his farm, he felt no aspiration for martial fame, and was 
not particularly excited by the quarrel between France and Eng- 
land, in which the colonies took, generally, an active part. 

He served, however, in the colonial assembly, and for twenty 
years assisted in the local legislation which was exercised for the 
improvement of the country, in the laying out of new roads, the 
erection of bridges, the founding of seminaries of education, and the 
provisions for administering justice. When the series of agressions 
upon the rights of the colonies was commenced by the passage of 
the stamp act in the year 1765, he assisted in the selection of dele- 
gates appointed to represent New Jersey in the congress held at 
New York, in the month of October of that year; and he was one 
of those who at once perceived the true nature of the dispute be- 
tween the ministry of King George on the one side, and the people 
of the colonies on the other; he saw clearly that the question at 
issue between them involved nothing less than absolute slavery to 
the colonies, if they should submit to the novel pretensions of the 
British government. 

The even tenor of his life was interrupted by few incidents that 
would not appear trivial in narration. His farm grew yearly better 
in value and improvement, his slock increased, and his family was 
augmented by a biennial addition of a son or daughter, until he was 
surrounded by thirteen children. In their education, together with 
the care of his farm, the exercise of friendly acts of assistance to his 
neighbours, and in serving brief tours of duty as a member of the 
colonial legislature, he found occupation of that enviable kind which, 
at once useful and tranquil, brings old age with no wrinkles but 
those which time has traced, and preserves for advanced years the 
cheerfulness of youth. 

A course of life so peaceful and happy is not often destined to re- 
main free from interruption. While everything was proceeding in 
its regular course in the domestic circle of '-honest John Hart,'" 
great events were occurring on the other side of the Atlantic, which 
were to reach, with a malignant influence, even to the calm retire- 
ment of the New Jersey farmer. 

In 1767, Charles Townshend being elevated, unfortunately for 
the British empire, to the place of chancellor of the exchequer 


brought forward his plan of revenue, including duties on glass, pa- 
per, pasteboard, painter's colours, and tea, imported into the colonies. 

The generous confidence in which the colonists had reposed since 
the repeal of the stamp act, was now dispelled ; they had trusted 
that the hateful project of imposing a badge of slavery upon them 
would not be revived, but the adoption by parliament of this new 
imposition, excited the most serious alarm and the gloomiest appre- 

John Hart, in the midst of his quiet comforts, appreciated the ex- 
tent of the evil that impended. Valuing all the blessings which 
were his own, he felt that they might all be rendered valueless if he 
were to possess them but as the slave of a despotic master. The 
amount of tax that he would pay was not worth a thought ; he had 
little occasion for English paper, pasteboard, glass, or paint ; and 
tea was a luxury that hardly found its way to the tables of such plain 
country families as his. 

But the sense of personal security and unalienable rights, the 
sturdy pride of freedom, which every Englishman of that day, and 
every inhabitant of the British colonics was accustomed to cherish 
as his birthright — these were indispensable to him. Without these, 
all the advantages he possessed were of no avail — his riches might 
increase, his friends might multiply, his honours might thicken upon 
him, his children might be all that his parental wishes could sug- 
gest — still if he might be taxed, to the value of a straw, by a parlia- 
ment in which he had no share of actual or virtual representation, 
he could be no more than a slave. It was a noble sentiment which 
actuated such men to join in the plans of resistance — a sentiment 
alloyed by no hope of personal aggrandizement, excited by no rest- 
lessness of temper, fomented by no artful demagogues — but pure 
and disinterested, founded on a sincere belief of rights invaded, and 
leading to the most unbounded sacrifices. 

The congress of 1774 was called, and assembled. Of this body 
the members were variously constituted. Hart was elected in July, 
by a conference of committees from different parts of the colony, 
and was a fit representative of the moderation, disinterestedness 
and firmness that then characterized the people who elected him. 

Of that august and venerable body nothing can be said in com- 
mendation, that would be beyond the truth. To that body will 
future statesmen look, and learn what it is to be a patriot. There 
was no selfish intrigue for power, no aim at personal distinction, no 
factious striving for individual honours. Of the members of that 


congress it may emphatically be asserted, as was said of the Romans 
in their most virtuous age, " with them the republic was all in all; 
for that alone they consulted ; the only faction they formed was 
against the common enemy; their minds, their bodies were exerted 
sincerely and greatly and nobly, not for personal power, but for the 
liberties, the rights, and the honour of their country." 

He returned, after the adjournment of congress, to the unvaried 
occupations of his farm; and waited, with anxious hope, the effect 
of the appeal that had been made to the generosity of the king and 
British people. 

In January, 1775, the general assembly of New Jersey re-ap- 
pointed him a representative in the congress which was to meet in 
the ensuing spring. He took his seat in this illustrious council on 
the tenth of May; and attended assiduously until the adjournment 
in the following August. 

At this time, however, the royal authority ceased in New Jersey, 
and the general assembly was superseded by a convention of depu- 
ties from the several counties, attended of course only by confirmed 
and decided whigs. This convention, on the fourteenth of February, 
1776, elected Mr. Hart one of their delegates to congress, and he 
did not refuse the appointment. 

His colleagues were William Livingston, Richard Smith, John 
Cooper and Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant; and they were vested 
with full powers to consent and agree to all measures which con- 
gress might deem necessary ; and the province of New Jersey was 
pledged by the resolution appointing these delegates, to execute to 
the utmost all resolutions which congress might adopt. 

On the twemy-first of June, a new appointment was made, in 
which John Hart was retained as being of accord with the people 
in their determination to risk all, and suffer all, that might be ne- 
cessarily risked or suffered in the effort to gain independence; but 
some of his colleagues were not continued, because their zeal or 
their firmness could not so safely be trusted. 

This new appointment, made after the proposition to declare in- 
dependence had been brought forward in congress, and with a know- 
ledge of Mr. Hart's opinions on the question, was accompanied with 
instructions "to join with the delegates of the other colonies in con- 
tinental congress, in the most vigorous measures for supporting the 
just rights and liberties of America, and if you shall judge it neces- 
sary or expedient for this purpose, to join with them in declaring 
the United Colonies independent of Great Britain." 


Although the life of John Hart was now drawing towards its 
close, and he was already full of years, the act most important to 
his future fame was yet to be performed. 

The Declaration was at first published with only the names of 
Mr, Hancock, as president, and Charles Thomson, as secretary. 
Such was the caution still prevalent respecting this most important 
measure, the consequences of which would have been most disastrous 
to all concerned in it, if the contest had eventuated in the success 
of the British arms. 

It is remarkable in the history of the revolutionary war, and is 
highly honourable to the patriots of that period, that their courage 
and spirit always appeared to be most lofty when the pressure of 
external circumstances seemed most disheartening. When the De- 
claration of Independence was first promulgated, the British army 
had just landed on Staten Island; and no one could tell which of 
the members of the congress had voted for a manifesto so offensive 
to the royal government. The president and secretary alone could 
be identified as individually responsible. Soon afterwards the battle 
on Long Island was fought; the American army was defeated with 
considerable loss; and it was known that the royal army was 
numerous, well disciplined and brave: under these circumstances a 
new publication of the Declaration was made, with the names of all 
the members, both those who were actually present, and those who 
subsequently came into congress. 

Far from shrinking at this alarming crisis from the share of re- 
sponsibility and contingent punishment attaching to each individual, 
by a concealment of the part that each had taken, every one seemed 
desirous to affix his name to an instrument which would have 
brought down on all the signers the direst vengeance of the British 
government, if the contest, apparently so unequal, had ended in the 
overthrow of the colonists. 

It is impossible to contemplate without admiration the moral 
courage, the generous disinterestedness, and the conscientious reso- 
lution that could impel such a man as John Hart to sign his name 
to a paper which he could not but know would be a signal for the 
devastation of his farm, the dispersion of his family, and the total 
impoverishment of himself and his children. Not impelled by per 
sonal ambition, nor sustained by the ardour of youth — already 
trembling with the feebleness of age, and having neither hope of a 
protracted life to enjoy in his own person the restoration of peace 
and the establishment of political rights — nor suited by tempera- 


ment, habit or education, for the attainment of political distinction; 
what could have supplied him with the motive for such heroic self- 
devotion? His motive is to be sought only in a sober conviction 
of rights invaded, in the dictates of a pure and enlightened patriot- 
ism, and a pious reliance on the protection of Heaven upon those • 
who conscientiously performed their duty. 

Accustomed during all his life to guide his conduct by the rules 
of right, and not by considerations of expediency, the same prin- 
ciple of rectitude, which had made him the chosen arbiter of all dis- 
putes among his neighbours, and acquired for him the title of 
'•honest" — a distinction which immortalized Aristides — this honesty 
impelled him to execute all his duties faithfully, in whatever situa- 
tion he might be placed, and guided him in the most elevated public 
act which was to be known and judged by the whole world, as well 
as in the most trivial concerns of his domestic circle. 

New Jersey soon became the theatre of war. The British army 
proceeded as far as the banks of the Delaware, and their progress 
and vicinity was marked by the most unrestrained and wanton de- 
struction of property. The details of their ravages, as they were 
communicated to congress, were most shocking and odious. The 
children of Mr. Hart escaped from insult by retiring from the neigh- 
bourhood of the troops; leaving the farm and stock to be pillaged 
and destroyed by the Hessians. 

The waste committed there by the marauding parties of the 
enemy was unsparing, and they sought with great eagerness to 
make Mr. Hart himself a prisoner. 

Being unwilling to leave his family at this particular juncture, he 
exposed himself frequently to the necessity of a precipitate flight, 
and a most inconvenient concealment. It had been impossible, so 
late in the season, to remove Mrs. Hart, who was afflicted with a 
disorder which terminated in her death, at this gloomy and disas- 
trous period. Mr. Hart was driven from the bedside of his dying 
partner, and hunted through the woods and among the hills, with a 
perseverance, on the part of his pursuers, that was worthy of a 
better cause. 

It was not until the latter part of December, that the enterprise 
of Washington, in striking suddenly at the Hessians posted at Tren 
ton, cleared Jersey of these unwelcome visitors. Until that time, 
Mr. Hart was a fugitive among the scenes of his youthful sports and 
his manly usefulness. While the most tempting offers of pardon 
were held forth to all rebels that would give in their adhesion to the 


royal cause, and while Washington's army was dwindling down to 
a mere handful, this old man was carrying his gray hairs and his 
infirmities about from cottage to cottage, and from cave to cave, 
while his farm was pillaged, his property plundered, his family 
afflicted and dispersed — he was, through sorrow, humiliation, and 
suffering, wearing out his bodily strength, and hastening the ap- 
proach of decrepitude and death. Yet he never despaired, never 
repented the course he had taken; but was always hoping for the 
best, and upheld by an approving conscience, and by a firm trust 
that the favour of Heaven would not be withheld from a righteous 

The particulars of his wanderings, as he afterwards unostenta- 
tiously related them, would require too minute a detail for the scope 
of the present work. The extremities to which he was reduced, 
may be judged from two facts: one is, that for a long period he 
never ventured to sleep twice at the same house; and the other, 
which he very good humouredly told of himself, was, that being 
sorely pressed for a safe night's lodging, and being unknown where 
he applied for one, he was obliged to share the accommodations of 
a large dog; a bed-fellow, as he declared, not in those evil times 
the most exceptionable. 

The successes of the American army at Trenton and Princeton, 
and the consequent evacuation of the greater part of Jersey by the 
British, relieved him from his most uncomfortable concealment, and 
enabled him to collect his family again, and set about repairing the 
damages done to his plantation. They were more easily repaired, 
indeed, serious as they were, than the injuries which hardship and 
anxiety had committed on his health and constitution. In restoring 
his devastated farm to order, and in giving advice to his friends and 
neighbours, who now in great numbers sought his counsel, he found 
ample occupation, and did not resume his seat in congress. 

He lived to see much brighter prospects open ; the surrender of 
Burgoyne, and the French alliance, left little doubt that with more 
or less of disaster and difficulty, but surely even if slowly, indepen- 
dence and peace would be obtained. 

Happy in the strengthening of this hope into a confident antici- 
pation, and in the consciousness of having well performed his duty 
during the whole of his life, he sunk into the arms of death, in the 
year 1780; leaving a character as free from any stain of sordid, or 
selfish motive, as it has ever fallen to the lot of man to sustain. 

His only public employment, except those which have been men- 


tioned, was that of justice of the peace; in the exercise of which lie 
was an example of patient investigation and equitable judgment; 
qualities which brought to the jurisdiction of his humble judgment- 
seat many of his neighbours, among whom the belief of his untar- 
nished probity and cool sagacity was unbounded. 

He was in personal appearance highly prepossessing; and in his 
younger days had been called handsome. His height was about 
five feet ten inches, his form straight and well-proportioned, his hair 
very black, his eyes light, and his complexion dark. He was a man 
of great kindness and justice in his domestic relations; of which 
traits many characteristic anecdotes are recollected by his surviving 

Mr. Hart was a munificent benefactor of the Baptist church, of 
Hopewell township, to which he presented the ground for the meet- 
ing house and a burial ground adjoining. He attended with his 
family, regularly, on the public worship at this church until his 
last illness, and was always known as a sincere, but unostentatious 



AT HOPEWELL, N. J., JULY 4, 1865. 

The Eighty-ninth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence 
has been made forever memorable for the people of this vicinity by 
the dedication of a monument* to the memory of John" Hart, a dis- 
tinguished citizen of Hopewell, and one of the immortal men who 
affixed their signatures to the Declaration of American Independence. 
John Hart died eighty-five years ago, in 1780, and was buried in a 

* The monument, which was erected several days before the dedication or inaugu- 
ration, is a plain shaft of Quincy granite, not lofty, hut appropriate and tasteful in 
design and execution, and contains the following inscriptions: — 



A Signer of the Declaration of Independence, 

from New Jersey, 

July 4th, 1776.— Died 1780. 

Erected by the State of New Jersey, 
by Act approved April 5, 1865. 
Joel Parker, Governor. 
Edward W. Scudder, President of Senate. 
Joseph T. Crowell, Speaker of House. 
Jacob Weart, 
Charles A. Skillman, 
Zephaniah Stout, 



First Speaker of Assembly, 

August 27th, 1776. 

Member of the Committee of Safety, 


Honor the Patriot's Grave. 


family burial-ground, where his grave was marked only by a rude 
stone, without inscription. The grave was, however, easily identified 
through the care of one who attended the burial. In that lonely and 
almost forgotten grave the remains of John Hart continued to repose 
until very recently, when they were removed to the burying-ground 
of the Hopewell Church, where the monument is erected. 

A year or more ago, Jacob Weart, Esq., a native of Hopewell, 
but now a resident of Jersey City, determined that a fitting monument 
to the memory of the neglected patriot and son of New Jersey should 
be erected, and to his persistent efforts it is due that the appropriation 
was obtained from the Legislature, and that the work is accomplished. 

Around the monument are the graves of those who were his com- 
panions and associates, some of the tombs dating back as far as the 
year 1771, and some bearing no date, being simply a block or slab of 
brown stone : over all, trees of half a century's growth cast their 
shadows, as if to shield them from the storms. 

At eleven o'clock, the procession having previously arrived on the 
ground, the exercises of the day commenced. 

Jacob Weart, Esq., Chairman of the Commission, delivered the 


Ladies and Gentlemen: The hour has arrived for the commencement of 
the exercises of this deeply interesting occasion. Eighty-five years ago, near 
this spot, the spirit of a revolutionary patriot took its flight and went to dwell 
with those of all past generations. Around his bier were gathered those who 
like himself were having their souls tried with the struggles and defeats of the 
Revolution : the land was still resounding with the clash of arms and the shock 
of battle; at every rising of the sun the reveille pealed forth, and sturdy sol- 
diers marked the passing events upon the dial of time. It was amid such 
scenes as these that the men of Hopewell bore the corpse of honest John 
Hart to its resting-place, at the then burial-ground of all the neighborhood, 
upon the farm of John P. Hunt, and there deposited it by the side of those 
members of his family, those dear little ones who had preceded him to their 
long home. As the earth was closed in upon his remains, the bearers, as was 
the custom in those days, placed at the head of his grave a rude stone such 
as nature had furnished for the occasion : when all these sad rites were per- 
formed, the friends departed. 

But beside that grave, on that day, there stood one who was more than a 
silent spectator — he was a soldier of the Revolution — one who had buckled on 
his armor and gone forth to defend those imperishable principles to which 
Hart had attached his name. After the funeral was over, this man said that 


the men of future times would want to know the spot where the remains of 
Hart rested ; so he went to the grave and cut a mark in the stone, in order 
that it might be identified. This man was Deacon James Hunt, a brother of 
John P. Hunt; and one, also, of the remarkable men of the times in which 
he lived. He was a man who, like Abraham of old, put his trust in God. 
And as Abraham, when he was leaning over the body of his son, with his 
knife just raised to shed his blood, and the Angel of the Lord called out of 
Heaven unto him, Abraham looked up with a calm and serene countenance 
and said, "Lord, here am I;" so when God sent a cloud, mainly of wind, 
thunder and lightning, to burn down the barn and outbuildings of Deacon 
Hunt, and while they were in flames, he seized his Bible and went out under a 
tree and commenced reading and praising God, while his earthly property was 
being destroyed. What a sublime spectacle! And as Abraham was blessed, 
so was Deacon James Hunt blessed for his faith; his days were lengthened 
out twenty-two years beyond those ordinarily allotted to man, and at ninety- 
two years he went down to his grave, a ripe Christian, beloved by all men who 
knew him, carrying with him the respect and affections of the people among 
whom he lived, and leaving behind a bright Christian character which will 
endure through all time. 

This farm still remains in the possession of the Hunt family, and the grave 
of Hart we know has come down to us, pointed out by the finger of Deacon 
Hunt as certainly as though we had stood by the side of it iu 1180, and our- 
selves beheld the remains deposited there. 

How true the prediction, that the men of future times would want to know 
the spot where rested the remains of Hart. For eighty-five long years they 
have slept undisturbed beneath the rude stone upon which Deacon Hunt put 
his mark. The Revolutionary war, then about closing, passed away; the war 
of 1812 came and went; and a mighty nation rose up and inhabited the waste 
places of the land until it blossomed like a rose, and the infant nation which 
Hart had aided in planting here became one of the mighty powers of the 
earth ; and when it was rolling in wealth and luxury the great rebellion swept 
over the country, plunging the nation in the furnace of affliction and deluging 
the land beneath a sea of blood; but amid all the last four years of shock of 
battle and din of strife, the remains of Hart slept quietly on with no signs of 
ever being disturbed. 

But as we were coming out of the furnace, not only in name but iu reality 
a nation of freemen, being welded together by the blood of thousands of mar- 
tyrs — and as the white heat began to run off, and the signs of peace daily 
approached — the people of this State came forward and said that the grave 
of Hart should not be so cruelly neglected longer. And on the 6th of April 
last, the Governor put his signature to the act by which the silence of Hart's 
tomb was broken on the Cth day of June, when his remains were exhumed and 
placed here beneath this granite monument, which the people of the State 
have erected. 


We have met together to-day to solemnly dedicate these stones to a departed 
one, dear and sacred to the people of this State, whose memory will be as 
lasting as liberty itself. The State has also come up on this occasion to pay 
still further homage to the ashes of Hart. His Excellency is here to deliver 
the oration. The public exercises will now commence. 

At the conclusion of the opening address, an impressive prayer was 
offered by Elder Philander Hartwell, Pastor of the Hopewell 

After music by the band, Rev. J. Romeyn Berry, of Jersey City, 
read the Declaration of Independence as only such an accomplished 
reader could do the same. 

His Excellency Joel Parker, Governor of New Jersey, was then 
introduced, who delivered the following 


It is now a little more than a century since the Parliament of Great Britain 
inaugurated that system of unjust and tyrannical measures which ended in the 
Americau Revolution, and the establishment of the independence of the colo- 
nies. The treasury of the mother country had been exhausted by continued 
war, and the British Ministry determined to replenish its empty coffers without 
placing additional burdens on the people of England. Hence, in 1163, a plan 
to tax America was devised, and heavy duties were laid on imported goods. 
In 1?65 (just one hundred years ago) the Stamp Act was passed, and soon 
after came the Mutiny Act, which compelled the people of the colonies to 
subsist the troops sent by the King to coerce and overawe them. Measures 
of a similar character followed in quick succession. A spirit of resistance 
was aroused. The Colonial Legislatures and the people in conventions pro- 
tested, and declared that, inasmuch as they had no representation in Parlia- 
ment, they would not submit to laws passed by that body, imposing taxes 
upon them; and that the rights of taxation and representation were insepa- 
rable. Tumult and violence followed. The people refused to pay the taxes 
or to use the stamps, and compelled the officers of the crown to resign. With 
each repeated act of oppression the spirit of resistance grew stronger, until, 
in 1115 it broke forth in actual hostilities. The first blast from the trump of 
war sounded on the field of Lexington. It spread over the plain, and pene- 
trated the distant valley. The bells from a thousand spires tolled out their 
signal notes, and the alarm fires from a thousand hills lit up the country in a 
blaze. It was on the Sabbath day that the news reached the quiet and 
secluded valley of Hopewell. "In the old Hopewell Baptist Meeting-house, 
Joab Houghton received the first intelligence of the battle of Lexington. 
Stilling the breathless messenger, he sat quietly through the services, and 
when they were ended, passed out, and mounting the great stone block in 


front of tlie Meeting-house, beckoned to the people to stop. Men and women 
paused to hear, curious to know what so unusual a sequel to the services of 
the day could mean. At the 6rst word, a silence, stern as death, fell over all. 
The Sabbath quiet of the hour and place was deepened into a terrible solem- 
nity, lie told them all the story of the cowardly murder at Lexington by 
the royal troops; the heroic vengeance following hard upon it, and the gather- 
ing of the children of the Pilgrims around the beleaguered hills of Boston. 
Then, pausing and looking over the silent crowd, he said slowly: 'Men of 
New Jersey, the red-coats are murdering our brethren of New England ! Who 
follows me to Boston?' And every man stepped out into line and answered, 
'I.' — There was not a coward or a traitor in old Hopewell Meeting-house 
that day." 

At the commencement of the American Revolution, the idea of independ- 
ence did not enter the mind of the Colonists. They took up arms to defend 
themselves from oppression, and were ready to lay them down and submit to 
the Royal Government as soon as that Government should repeal the objec- 
tionable laws of which they complained, and withdraw military force from 
their soil. They still acknowledged allegiance to the King, and indulged the 
hope that a reconciliation would speedily be consummated. The people con- 
tinued to vote petitions to his Majesty, entreating him to prevent the dissolu- 
tion of that connection which the remembrance of former friendships and pride 
in the glorious achievements of common ancestors, had so long maintained. 
But all was in vain. Entreaty and remonstrance were of no avail. The peo- 
ple of England were governed by an unwise King. He drove America to a 
declaration of her rights, and by his own imprudence lost the brightest jewel 
of his crown. 

The time at length arrived when the Colonies were compelled to stand forth 
and declare their independence. On the 7th day of June, 1776, Richard Henry 
Lee, of Virginia, arose in the Continental Congress, and submitted this reso- 
lution : — ■ 

"Hesoh-ed, That these united colonies are and of right ought to be free 
and independent States ; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the 
British Crown, and that all political connection between them and Great 
Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved." 

Mr. Lee accompanied his resolutions with a brilliant address. "Why," said 
he, "why longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this day give birth to an 
American Republic. The eyes of the world are fixed upon us. If we are not 
this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American legislators of 1776 
will be inscribed on the page of history by the side of those whose memory 
has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens." The con- 
sideration of the resolution was postponed to the 1st day of July, and in the 
mean time a committee was appointed to prepare a declaration of independ- 
ence, to be adopted, provided the resolution then pending should pass. On 
the 1st day of July the subject was resumed, and on the 4th day of July, 1776 


(the resolution having passed), the declaration of independence was signed. 
How solemn, how impressive, and yet how grand the spectacle] At a time 
when despondency and gloom had seized the stoutest hearts, when all seemed 
to be lost, and the triumphant shouts of the victorious enemy could be heard 
on every side, these choice spirits of the land, whose memory will be revered 
to the remotest generation, were gathered around the charter of American 
freedom. The fate of America and perhaps the political destiny of the world 
were about to be decided. The act then to be consummated was not the result 
of sudden passion, nor the wild burst of enthusiasm, but of long and painful 
discussion, of midnight meditation and secret prayer. The men who sur- 
rounded that table and affixed their names to that instrument, knew that, if 
unsuccessful, they were signing a death-warrant. They knew that a price had 
been set upon their heads, and that they had been excluded from the general 
amnesty offered those who would return to their allegiance. On the one side 
was prospective ignominy, chains, and death ; and on the other the independ- 
ence of their country, freedom from the tyrant's yoke, and the prosperity and 
happiness of their children. They did not hesitate. Nothing daunted by 
adverse circumstances, they boldly deDed the most powerful monarch on the 
globe. One by one they seized the pen and traced their names in those bold 
characters that can never be effaced, and by that act gave birth to a nation. 
The thirteen feeble Colonies, comparatively without resources, without men 
or munitions of war, were embarked in a struggle for independence against a 
government that could command the most formidable fleets, and bring into 
the field the most powerful armies. 

Among those gathered around that table on that memorable Fourth of 
July, eighty-nine years ago, was one whose name this day involuntarily comes 
to the lips of all here assembled. His lot in life was cast in the secluded 
scenes of this beautiful valley. Here be passed his childhood and youth ; 
here, one hundred years ago, in the prime of manhood he trod the soil where 
we now stand, and here, after a long and eventful life, he found a resting-place. 
At his grave, in the presence of this vast assembly convened to pay a tribute 
of respect to his memory, as the representative of the State whose faithful 
servant he was, I dedicate this monument. 

John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence from 
New Jersey, was born in the year IT 15. He was the son of Edward Hart, 
of Hopewell township, then in Hunterdon County. Edward was a man of 
considerable importance in his neighborhood, and during the French war raised 
in Hunterdon County a company of soldiers called the "Jersey Blues," and at 
their head marched to Quebec, where he fought under Wolfe on the Heights 
of Abraham. Johu took no part in the French war, but remained upon his 
farm. In the retirement of his quiet home he was an attentive observer of 
the conduct of the British Ministry towards the Colonies, and anxiously con- 
sidered the great questions then agitating the public mind. At an early day 
he determined on the course to pursue. He was among the first to advocate 


resistance to the tyranny of the mother country, and in all his subsequent 
career, whether in public or private life, he was consistent, steadfast, and 
immovable in the line of duty he had marked out. 

For a long time he refused to accept office, and it was not until the difficul- 
ties and dangers that threatened the peace of the Colonies began to thicken, 
that he could be induced to separate himself from the pleasures of a home 
made attractive by a large and dependent family. In the year 1761, when 4fi 
years of age, he was for the first time elected a member of the Colonial Legis- 
lature; and from that time to the day of his death, a period of eighteen years, 
he was continually in public stations of the gravest importance and responsi- 
bility. The district which he represented embraced the territory now com- 
posing the counties of Hunterdon, Sussex, Warren, Morris, and part of Mercer. 
He was an active and useful member, and was re-elected for ten years suc- 

The time during which John Hart occupied a seat in the Colonial Legis- 
lature was a very important period in American history. The spirit that 
animated the Revolution was then born. Patrick Henry, in Virginia, and 
James Otis, in Massachusetts, with surpassing eloquence, harangued the peo- 
ple, and aroused them to the highest pitch of patriotic excitement. New 
Jersey kept pace with the other colonies, and her Legislature was among the 
foremost in defiant protest and condemnation. On the 30th day of November, 
1765, resolutions strongly condemning the Stamp Act were passed.' For these 
resolutions John Hart voted; and in order to understand the motives that 
influenced his action in resisting the authority of the British Government, it 
will be well to read them : — . 

"Whereas, the late act of Parliament called the Stamp Act, is found to 
be utterly subversive of privileges inherent in and originally secured by, grants 
and confirmations from the Crown of Great Britain to the settlers of this 
Colony: in duty, therefore, to ourselves, our constituents, and posterity, the 
House of Assembly thinks it absolutely necessary to leave the following re- 
solves on our minutes: 

"That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people and the un- 
doubted rights of Englishmen that no taxes be imposed on them but with 
their own consent, given personally or by their representatives." * * * 

"That the people of this Colony are not and from their remote situation 
cannot be represented in the Parliament of Great Britain, and if the principle 
of taxing the Colonies without their consent should be adopted, the people 
here would be subjected to the taxation of two Legislatures, a grievance un- 
precedented and not to be thought of without the greatest anxiety." * * 

"That any incumbrance that in effect restrains the liberty of the Press in 
America, is an infringement upon the subjects' liberty." * * * * 

"That the extension of the powers of the Court of Admiralty within this 
province beyond the ancient limits, is a violent innovation of the right of trial 
by jury, a right which this House, upon the principles of their British ances- 
tors, hold most dear and invaluable." 

These were the principles which an hundred years ago influenced John Hart 
and his colleagues of the Colonial Legislature of New Jersey in protesting 


against the usurpations of the Crown. "No taxation without representa- 
tion," "Freedom of the Press," "Trial by Jury;" and they are as dear to the 
people and as essential to the existence of free government now as they were 

On the Till of May, 1768, an address to the King was unanimously adopted 
by the House, in which it was declared that one of the "rights and liberties 
vested in the people of the Colony is the privilege of being exempt from any 
taxation but such as is imposed on them by themselves or their representatives." 

And on the 18th day of October, 1769, it was resolved without dissent 
"that the thanks of the House be given to the merchants and traders of this 
Colony and of the Colonies of New York and Pennsylvania, for their disinte- 
rested and public spirited conduct in withholding their importations of British 
merchandise until certain acts of Parliament laying restrictions on American 
commerce for the express purpose of raising a revenue in America, be repealed." 
But the legislative action most antagonistic to the Royal Government, and in 
which John Hart bore a conspicuous part, was commenced by a resolution of 
the Assembly passed on the 23d day of October, 1770, in these few words: 
"Resolved, That no further provision be made for the supply of His Majesty's 
troops stationed in this Colony." This was a direct impeachment of the 
King's authority, and if adhered to, must inevitably produce collision. On 
the passage of this resolution the vote was recorded, and among those voting 
against any'allowance to the King's troops, and in favor of the resolution, we 
find the name of John Hart. When a copy of this resolution was presented 
to Governor Franklin, he was extremely indignant, and immediately sent a 
message to the House, in which he said: "lam greatly surprised and con- 
cerned to find that you have resolved that no further provision be made for the 
supply of His Majesty's troops stationed in this Colony. As, by the resolu- 
tion, you refuse to comply with the express order from His Majesty founded 
on the highest authority, there can be no doubt that it will, if adhered to, be 
attended with very serious consequences. Should you determine to abide by 
your resolution, I must desire that you furnish me with your reasons, in as 
plain, full, and explicit a manner as possible, to be transmitted to His Majesty, 
that he may know from your own words, and not from my representations, 
the motives of your extraordinary conduct." This was intended as a threat, 
and it had the desired effect, for, on the same day the House receded, recon- 
sidered the resolution, and granted five hundred pounds for the use of the 
troops. But this was not done by a unanimous vote. Six names are recorded 
in the negative, and among them is that of John Hart. The agitation of this 
question did not stop here. At the next session, held in April, 1771, the 
resolution not to pay the troops was renewed and again passed, Mr. Hart 
voting in the affirmative; and no British soldier was afterwards paid by the 
Colony of New Jersey. When the Governor was notified of the passage of 
this resolution a second time, he was so vexed that he immediately prorogued 
the House to the 2d of May, and administered to the members a severe lecture, 


telling them to go boaie and take the sense of their constituents on the sub" 
ject. The constituents of John Hart took the Governor at his word, and 
wrote a letter of instruction to their representatives, in which they warmly 
sustained his action. Although ninety-four years have passed since that doc- 
ument was written, it is still in existence.* I have here the original, and will 
now read it. It proves of what stuff the people of Hopewell were made in 
the "time that tried men's souls." 

"We, the Freeholders of the county of Hunterdon, of West New Jersey, 
to the representatives of said county, appointed to meet at Burlington with 
the other representatives of said province, on the 2d day of May, 1771, greet- 
ing. Gentlemen: Whereas, we understand His Excellency the Governor has 
adjourned the House of Assembly in order to consider further on divers affairs 
presented to the House last session, in which interval the members might have 
an opportunity to consult their constituents: therefore, without the least 
defection in our zeal for His Majesty, or desire to promote contention between 
the different branches of the Legislative body in this province, yet desirous 
that our liberties may be secured to us, do agree with the resolution taken by 
the Assembly at their last sitting; and approve the reasons given to His 
Excellency, for not complying with several requisitions made respecting 'In- 
couragement for the augmenting His Majesty's regular troops in this province, 
and granting supplies for their support.' Moreover, we, your constituents, 
subject these following queries to your further consideration : — 

"1. Whether to have the King's troops stationed among us in time of 
Peace is constitutional and agreeable. 

"2. Whether they are or can be of any use to us, or whether any proper 
officer of this government has the command of them in any case of immergency. 

"3. Whether regular troops does not spread vice and immorality in a coun- 
try where they are maintained in idleness. 

"1. Is it consistent with honor and justice to support them who do us no 
service ? 

"5. Whether there is not danger that a military power may in time inter- 
rupt the proper influence and management of civil administration. 

"We think, gentlemen, that the consideration of these things, with what 
you have already urged, will constrain you to abide by your former resolutions, 
and you will continue to make the ease, safety, interest, and morals of the 
Province the subject of your zealous attentions. Signed by the freeholders of 
Hunterdon, May, 1771. 

Hezekiah Stout, Benjamin Stout, 

Moses Hart, Joab Houghton, 

William Sherd, Henry Vankirk, 

Nehemiah Sexton, Andrew Stout, 

Nathaniel Stout, Abraham Stout, 

Wm. Chamberling, Wm. Bryant. 

"To John Hart and Samuel Tucker." 

It is hardly necessary to add that at the next session the resolution was 
adhered to. The question was taken on the 31st of May, and carried by a 
vote of fifteen to four, John Hart voting in the affirmative. 

* It is the property of Cha's L. Pascal, Esq., of Philadelphia, a grandson of John 
Hart's daughter Susanna, who married Major John Polhemus, of New Jersey. 


I have mark this brief reference to the record of Mr. Hart, as a member of 
the Colonial Legislature, in order to establish the fact that he was one of the 
earliest as well as oue of the most resolute friends of American Independence; 
and that upon all vital questions, such as the Liberty of the Press, the Trial 
by Jury, and especially the subjection of military to the civil authority, he 
espoused the cause of the people against the Crown. His fellow members 
must have placed implicit confidence in his honesty and business capacity, for 
besides being on other important committees, he was always appointed to 
audit and settle public accounts, and adjust claims against the Colony. 

Mr. Hart left the Colonial Legislature in 1772, but he soon appeared again 
in a position of still greater importance and responsibility. The controversy 
between the Legislature and Governor Franklin, growing out of the Stamp 
Act and other kindred measures, was conducted with great acrimony. The 
sympathies of the Governor were with the Crown, and he contrived to thwart 
the action of the Legislature in defending the rights of the people. He would 
sometimes dissolve or prorogue the House without justifiable cause, and at 
other times would refuse to convene it when absolutely necessary. It was 
evident that something must be done to get rid of the Governor's power, or 
the Colony would be irretrievably subjugated ; and accordingly the people of 
every county met and appointed delegates to a convention called to take into 
consideration the condition of public affairs, and to put the Colony in a pos- 
ture of defence. The first session of this convention was held at New Bruns- 
wick in 1774, and it subsequently met at Trenton and Burlington, and con- 
tinued in being until July, 1776, when it formed a constitution, deposed Gov. 
Franklin, and organized a State government, which still exists, and we trust 
will continue to exist to the end of time. This convention, which was entirely 
independent of the Governor, assumed the functions of legislation, and was 
called the Provincial Congress. It was, perhaps, the most important body 
that ever convened in New Jersey. During the whole period of its existence 
John Hart was a delegate from the County of Hunterdon. He was present, 
and served in the sessions of May, June, and August, 1775; was re-elected, 
and attended the sessions of October, 1775, and January and June, 1776. 
He appears to have been a leading member, and served as chairman of several 
important committees. To him was intrusted the preparation of an estimate 
of the expenses necessary to put the Colony in a state of defence ; also the 
preparation of an ordinance for the government of the militia. In those 
primitive days of finance, he was selected to frame an ordinance for emitting 
bills of credit, and making provision to sink the same, and was appointed one 
of the commissioners to sign the proclamation money. He was also chairman 
of a committee to prepare an ordinance for erecting a Court of Admiralty- 
These various trusts committed to him by his fellow members, prove the esti- 
mate of his character and talents entertained by those who knew him best. 

At each session after actual hostilities commenced the Provincial Congress 
selected from among its members a commission called the "Committee of 


Safety," which met in various parts of the Colony during the recess, and per- 
formed the most important and delicate duties. Of this committee John Hart 
was continually a member, and the proceedings show that he was always in 
attendance at its deliberations. 

But a station of far greater importance and distinction — one that will trans- 
mit to the remotest posterity the name of John Hart, and give him an enduring 
place on the historic page — awaited him. A crisis in American affairs ap- 
proached. In the character of rebels, the colonists could not hope to enlist 
the sympathy or aid of European powers; neiCher was there a sufficient motive 
to command, to the fullest extent, their own energies; and it became necessary 
for them to assert their nationality. Many were opposed to the movement, 
and it was extremely doubtful, up to the day the Continental Congress adopted 
Mr. Lee's resolution, whether independence would be declared. In February, 
177G, the Provincial Congress of New Jersey chose five delegates to the Con- 
tinental Congress, all of whom, except William Livingston (who had received 
a military commission), declined or refused to attend, because they were not 
prepared to take the proposed step. Under these circumstances, the Provincial 
Congress met at Burlington, in June, 1776, and proceeded to elect men of 
sterner mould, upon whom they could rely, to join with the other Colonies in 
the contemplated declaration. John Hart, although at the time a member of 
the Provincial Congress, was chosen a delegate, together with Richard Stock- 
ton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkiuson, and Abraham Clark; and they 
signed the declaration on the fourth day of the following month. This man, 
of humble origin, modest and unassuming, without advantages of early educa- 
tion, a plain farmer, had, by his integrity of character, his wisdom, his prac- 
tical sense, and his patriotic zeal, acquired such an influence among his 
colleagues as to be esteemed worthy to stand side by side with Jefferson and 
Adams, Franklin and Rush, Stockton and Witherspoon, the most eloquent, 
the most learned, the most distinguished statesmen of the land. 

In the directions given to the New Jersey delegates to the Continental 
Congress, their action on the question of independence was left to their dis- 
cretion ; and they were requested to join in declaring the United Colonies 
independent of Great Britain, if they thought it necessary and expedient. 
But the instructions upon the nature of the government to be formed in case 
independence should be declared, were specific; and they prove the kind of 
government our forefathers intended should be established, and their extreme 
jealousy of the right of self-control in reference to the proper subjects of local 
legislation. The instructions were, to join with the delegates of the other 
Colonies in the most vigorous measures for supporting the just rights and 
liberties of America; and if independence should be declared, then to enter 
into a confederacy for Union and common defence, and make treaties with 
foreign nations, and take such other measures as might lie necessary for these 
great ends; but that whatever confederacy they should enter into, the regula. 
tion of internal affairs was to be reserved to the Provincial Legislature, 


New Jersey did not wait for the Declaration of Independence, but proceeded 
in advance of all the other Colonies to assert the right of self-government ; 
and before the Declaration of National Independence was signed she separated 
from the mother country, cut loose from all allegiance to the Crown, and 
established a State government. On the 2d day of July, 1176, the Provincial 
Congress adopted a constitution, which governed the State from that day to 
the year 1844. 

At the first election under the new government, held in August, 1776, John 
Hart, although still a member of the Continental Congress, was elected a 
member of Assembly from the county of Hunterdon. The first Legislature of 
the State of New Jersey met at Princeton on the 23d of August, and Mr. 
Hart was elected Speaker of the House by a unanimous vote. Thus, within 
the period of three months, he filled three stations of the first importance : a 
member of the Provincial Congress, a delegate to the Continental Congress, 
and Speaker of Assembly. William Livingston was elected by the Legislature 
the first Governor of the State, and after his induction to office, as was then 
the custom, lie sent for the Assembly to attend him in the Council Chamber, 
where he delivered in person his message; and on the 5th day of October, 
1776, the Speaker delivered in return the address of the House. This address 
was not only delivered, but signed by John Hart, and for the purpose of 
developing still further his character and the sentiments that controlled his 
action at this most interesting period of revolutionary history, I will make 
some extracts from this address. "Your obliging mention of the importance 
of the station in which the uncorrnpted voice of our constituents hath placed 
us, demand our acknowledgments, and will, we hope, spirit us to such exertions 
in our duty as may redound to the benefit of the State, and we assure you, 
with sincerity, that, laying aside all private attachments and resentments, it 
shall be our duty to cultivate that harmony, that spirit of economy, industry, 
and patriotism, so essential to the public welfare; and that whilst our heaven- 
directed generals and soldiers, with an ardor peculiar to freemen, brave the 
dangers of well-fought fields, against the lawless sons of rapine and plunder, 
ours shall be the important task, in conjunction with your Excellency, to give 
our cool deliberation and useful resolves. We hope that no situation in life 
can make us lose sight of that evident truth so loudly proclaimed in the historic 
page, that dissoluteness of manners and political corruption are inseparable 
companions in the destruction of kingdoms; while the concurring testimony 
of the inspired penmen will enforce on the most obdurate heart that ' righteous- 
ness exalteth a nation, but that sin is a reproach to any people ' Determined 
to employ the talents given, in procuring and transmitting inviolate to pos- 
terity the fair inheritance of civil and religious liberty, though bought at the 
price of life, we will look for the permanency and stability of our new govern- 
ment to Hun who bringeth Princes to nothing and teacheth nations wisdom." 
Such was the language of this noble patriot at the most gloomy period of the 
Revolution. Firmly resolved to do his duty in every emergency, though at the 


risk of his life, yet his trust was in God. The British forces then had pos- 
session of the State of New Jersey. The Americans, unable to resist the 
immense armies brought against them, had retired from New York across the. 
Hudson. The decimated army of Washington, almost without arms or am- 
munition, ragged and ill fed, were driven through New Jersey, and across the 
Delaware, by the well equipped, well supplied, and confident British regulars 
and their Hessian allies. Towns were sacked and destroyed, houses pillaged, 
and the families of prominent patriots driven from their homes and compelled 
to conceal themselves in swamps and caves. Never did a country suffer more 
from the ravages of war than did New Jersey during the advance of the army 
of Lord Cornwallis in 1 T t G . In his message to the Legislature next succeed- 
ing this campaign, Governor Livingston thus describes the conduct of the 
enemy: "Their rapacity was boundless, their rapine indiscriminate, and their 
barbarity unparalleled. They have warred upon decrepit age and defenceless 
youth. They have butchered the wounded asking for quarter, mangled the 
dying weltering in their blood, refused to the dead the rights of sepulture, 
suffered prisoners to perish for want of sustenance, and in the rage of impiety 
and barbarism, profaned edifices dedicated to Almighty God." The Legisla- 
ture fled from Princeton to Burlington, thence to Pittstown, in Salem County, 
and thence to Haddonfield, where it dissolved, and Mr. Hart returned to look 
after his family. He found his home deserted. The health of his wife, to whom 
he was devotedly attached, impaired by the cares of a large family and the 
alarm created by the near approach of the Hessians, had given way, and she 
died in the absence of her husband. His children had fled, and were concealed 
in various places in the mountains. His crops had been consumed by the 
enemy, and his stock driven away. He was compelled to fly to save his life ; 
and for weeks he was a fugitive, hunted from house to house, wandering 
through the forests, and sleeping in caves. His biographer feelingly remarks: 
"Thus was this old man, carrying his gray hairs and his infirmities about from 
cottage to cottage, and from cave to cave, leaving his farm to be pillaged, his 
property plundered, his family afflicted and dispersed; yet through sorrow, 
humiliation, and suffering, wearing out his bodily strength, and hastening on 
decrepitude and death, never despairing, never repenting the course he had 
taken, hoping for the best, and upheld by an apprpving conscience and by a 
firm trust that the power of Heaven would not be withheld from a righteous 

At length a change came. On the memorable night of the 25th of Decem- 
ber, 1776, in the midst of snow, hail, and rain, Washington, at the head of 
his brave but almost despairing army, recrossed the Delaware at McKonkey's 
Ferry. Silent and thoughtful was the march of that little band over those 
long and weary miles of snow and frost on that tempestuous night ; but at 
dawn of day their artillery swept the streets of Trenton, the impetuous charge 
was made, and the victory won. This, with the success of the Americans at 
Princeton, revived the drooping spirits of the people, and rescued the State 


from the invaders' grasp. John Hart came forth from his hiding place, and 
convened the Legislature to meet at Trenton on the 22d of January, 1777. 
.He was again unanimously elected Speaker, and continued to hold the same 
position at that and subsequent sessions, exercising a controlling influence in 
legislation until his declining health obliged him to vacate the chair; and on 
the 11th day of May, 1779, at his home in Hopewell, he departed this life, 
full of years and honors, leaving behind him a name that will never perish. 

As his public career was without blemish, so was his private life pure and 
exemplary. He was a consistent member of the old Hopewell Church, and 
gave to the congregation the land on which the meeting-house was erected, 
and in which his remains are now deposited. 

Such, fellow-citizens, were the services, and such the character of the man 
around whose grave we are now assembled. And surely his was a character 
worthy of all respect, honor, and reverence. He was a true patriot. He 
sacrificed his property and his life in defence of the rights of the people. And 
this he did, not from the promptings of ambition. He was an unostentatious 
farmer, and loved retirement. He cared not for place or power, but, after he 
had passed the prime of life, he accepted tile various stations lie filled so wor- 
thily only from a sense of duty to his country. 

In the dark hours of 1776, when all seemed lost, that old man called together 
the body over which he presided, and encouraged Lis desponding associates to 
take measures for defence; and when forced to dissolve the House and fly for 
his life, a fugitive and a wanderer, his faith and courage never forsook him. 
The history of that day does not furnish a more marked or more interesting 
character. Not eloquent or learned, he was gifted with strong intellect and 
sterling common sense, and these, joined with great integrity and zealous and 
untiring patriotism, gave him a powerful influence over all with whom he was 
associated. Upon a careful examination of the history of New Jersey during 
and immediately preceding the Revolutionary war, I am of opinion that John 
Hart had greater experience in the Colonial and State legislation of that day, 
than any of his contemporaries; and that no man exercised greater influence 
in giving direction to the public opinion which culminated in independence. 
In erecting this monument to his memory the State of New Jersey has done 
an act of long-delayed justice; and I rejoice that during my official term I 
have the privilege of being present at its dedication, and at the patriot's grave, 
on behalf of a grateful people to pay this imperfect tribute to the memory of 
one who bore so honorable and so conspicuous a part in the great drama of 
the American Revolution. Henceforth it will not be said, as, alas ! it has been 
said with too much truth, that he who stood by the country in the hour of its 
peril, who placed his name to the instrument which declared her free, who 
sacrificed time, and health, and life in her cause, is suffered to sleep in neglect, 
without even a stone to say to the curious stranger, "Here lies the body of 
honest John Hart." 

John Hart did not live to see the end of the war. He died before the object 


for which he toiled and suffered, and for which he pledged fortune, honor, and 
life, had been attained. 

But he was permitted to live long enough to see the dawning of the day. 
The alliance with France and the surrender of Burgoyne preceded his death, 
and lie must have died with the assurance that the Declaration to which he had 
affixed his name would be maintained by the power of arms. 

Long and doubtful was the struggle that followed, but the God of battles 
directed the issue. The proudest and most powerful monarch on earth was 
humbled, and the United States of America was enrolled upon the list of 

The work was finished, and not a stain defaced the escutcheon of American 
arms. Other armies, after subduing the enemy, have turned upon their breth- 
ren, and embroiled their country in civil war. Other generals have refused to 
sheathe the sword so long as ambition presented an object for its exercise. It 
was reserved for the American hero, as soon as the necessity that called him 
to the field ceased to exist, cheerfully to yield up his commission, and retire to 
the rural shades of Vernon. On the 2d of November, 1183, Washington 
issued his farewell orders and bade his comrades a final adieu. On the next 
day the army disbanded, and the soldiers returned to their homes. A grateful 
country, since possessed of ample means, remembered their services. The 
morning of their life was passed amid the storm and tempest, its evening was 
solaced by the twilight of repose. 

"The joy 
"With which their children tread the hallowed ground 
That holds their venerated bones ; the peace 
That smiles on all they fought for, and the wealth 
That clothes the land they rescued ; these, though mute 
(As feeling ever is when deepest), these 
Are monuments more lasting than the fanes 
Reared to the kings and demigods of old." 

Time will not suffice to trace the progress of the new nation. A constitu- 
tion founded on the great and eternal principles of justice was adopted, forming 
a union of many distinct sovereignties, yet so blended as to constitute one 
harmonious whole. Under this form of government the nation prospered and 
grew in power and resources beyond all precedent. Its flag was known and 
respected in every port of the civilized globe, and its commerce traversed every 
sea. Millions of fearless and hardy pioneers penetrated the western forests, 
redeemed the wilderness, and built splendid cities on the shore of the Pacific. 
In eighty years the population increased from three to thirty millions, the 
territory was vastly extended, and the number of States more than doubled. 
History does not furnish au example of such rapid progress in all that goes 
to constitute a great and powerful nation. But, alas! while in the midst of 
unexampled prosperity, the seeds of civil discord were sown. The heresy of 
secession took deep root. The people of a section becoming dissatisfied, and 


claiming secessiou as a constitutional right, attempted to withdraw from the 
Union and set up a separate government. We have but just emerged from 
the terrible struggle that ensued, with our wounds still bleeding. The weeds 
of mourning for those who have fallen are still fresh, and the flowers have not 
yet withered on the new-made graves. Tltanks be to God that peace, once 
more reigns throughout the land. Thanks be to God that the Union is saved. 
The question which, from the infancy of the nation, has imperilled its exist- 
ence, has been settled. But do not mistake the import of the decision. It 
has not been decided that the States have no rights. The nature of the 
government established by our revolutionary fathers is not changed. The 
States have never been out of the Union, and their powers of government 
within their proper sphere are as real and absolute now as they ever were ; 
but it has been settled beyond all controversy, that to secede at will, and thus 
dissolve the Union, is not one of the rights of a State, and that all fancied 
or real grievances must be settled within the Union by the lawful tribunals, 
and not outside of it, by force of arms. It has been decided that the framers 
of the Constitution intended to make a perpetual Union, and that the exist- 
ence of a great nation must not depend on the will of a single party to the 

As New Jersey was among the foremost in the struggle which ended in the 
formation of the Union, so has she been among the most earnest to preserve 
it. While the maintenance of peace seemed possible, she labored perseveringly 
to that eud; but when the insurgents fired upon the flag which is the emblem 
of our nationality, her people arose as one man; and at the call of the au- 
thorities, thousands rushed to the scene of conflict; nor did she relax her 
efforts so long as an armed foe defied the authority of the Government. No 
troops have behaved with greater gallantry. There is not an instance of a 
New Jersey regiment leaving the field in confusion and without orders. They 
were with Kearney on the Peninsula, with Mott at Petersburg, with Torbert in 
the valley of the Shenandoah, and with Kilpatrick in his triumphant march 
through the South. 

For the preservation of the Union, which John Hart and his compeers 
labored to establish, they bared their bosoms in the forefront of danger, on 
almost every battle-field of the war. Having finished their work, they are 
now returning to their homes. Let them be welcomed with every manifesta- 
tion of joy. Let age and youth, manhood and beauty, vie with each other in 
doing honor to these brave men. Let bonfires and illuminations, the sound 
of music, the roar of artillery, and the loud huzzas of a grateful people, greet 

And now that the war is over, the nation will resume with vigor the great 
race of civilization and progress. Those who participated in the rebellion 
acknowledge that they have been thoroughly defeated, and are sincerely anxious 
to renew their allegiance. The magnanimous terms extended by Grant, not 
only disbanded the rebel armies, but completely disarmed the passions and 


prejudices of the people. No tongue can describe the suffering they have 
endured for the last four years. Let a spirit of kindness and charity, so far 
as is consistent with justice and the public welfare, be extended to a fallen foe, 
and soon the wounds made by the ravages of war will be healed; and bound 
together in cordial union, the United States of America will speedily become 
the great power among nations. 

And now, my friends, our duty is performed, and we will soon leave this 
consecrated ground. This monument may crumble and decay, but the fame 
of him whose remains are here entombed shall never die. The historic page 
will speak of him to posterity; and may we not hope that, after all now here 
assembled shall have passed from earth — in the far off centuries — that future 
generations shall stand by this tomb, dedicated to virtue and to patriotism ; 
and as they contemplate the character of him whose dust lies beneath this 
monument, draw inspiration from the hallowed spot; and here, beneath the 
shadow of this temple dedicated to Almighty God, renew their vows, and swear 
that his work shall never perish, and the Union shall be perpetual. 

Several relics of John Hart and his times were shown by the Go- 
vernor during the delivery of the oration. Among these was the old 
family Bible used by John Hart, in which are recorded, in his own 
handwriting, the record of the births, marriages, and deaths of the 
family. The original deed from John Hart to the Baptist Church of 
Hopewell (giving the land on which the church is built), drawn in 
1771, and a piece of the table used by John Hancock, on which the 
Declaration of Independence was signed, were also shown. These 
interesting relics are now in the possession of Mr. Cha's L. Pascal, of 
Philadelphia, a descendant of John Hart. 






Sarah, born October 16. [Year not legible.] 

Jesse, born September 19, 1742. 

Martha, born April 10, 1746. 

Nathaniel, born October 29, 1747. 

John, born October 29, 1748. 

Susannah, born August 2, 1750. 

Mary, born April 7, 1752. 

Abigail, born February 10, 1754. 

Edward, born December 20, 1755. 

Scudder, born December 30, 1759. 

A daughter (nameless), March 16, 1761. 

Daniel, born August 13, 1762. 

Deborah, born August 21, 1765. 

Sarah married a Wyekoff, and her grandson, Samuel S. Wyckoff, is a pro- 
minent merchant in Murray Street, New York. 

Susannah married Major John Polhemus, a revolutionary officer. 

Deborah married Joseph Ott. 

Daniel went to Virginia. 

Three of John Hart's sons (supposed to be Jesse, Nathaniel, and John) 
acted as Washington's guides while campaigning in New Jersey. 

The wife of John Hart was Deborah Scndder, whom he married about the 
year 1740. She was then 18 years old. She died on the 26th of October, 
1776, leaving twenty-two grandchildren. 

The township of Hopewell was formerly in Hunterdon County, but is now 
in Mercer; the latter county having been set off from Hunterdon and Burling- 
ton by legislative act. 

A part of Mr. Hart's family, in the fall and winter of 1776, took refuge in 
a log hovel near Moore's Mill, about two miles from Hart's residence. He 
was secreted in Sourland Mountains during the day, and at night he slept in 
an out-house with the family dog as his only companion. ■_ 

The time of Mr. Hart's death has been stated differently by different writers. 
Sanderson, in his "Lives of the Signers," puts it in the year 1780. Others 


make the time 1118. Tbe true time is that given by Governor Parker 11th 

of May, 1779. This appears by a marginal note in the proceedings of the 
Legislature of that year, and this date is confirmed by the probate of the will, 
which was May 23, 1779. 

The personal appearance of Mr. Hart was very prepossessing. He was 
5 feet 10 inches high, well proportioned, very black hair, keen blue eyes ; 
stood very straight; skin little brown. 

Mr. Hart was a man of great kindness of heart. It is told that lie had a 
negro named Jack, who was a great favorite of his master. While Mr. Hart 
was absent Jack committed some offence that subjected him to the charge of 
larceny of his master's goods. On his return, Mr. Hart was solicited by some 
of the family to punish Jack, but he refused, and declared that Jack could not 
steal from him, since he had confided all his movables to his care, and nothing 
more than a breach of trust could be made of it. 

Joab Houghton, who was one of the signers of the instructions to John 
Hart in 1771, was made a Colonel in the American army in 1775. He was 
a brave officer. In 1776, when the county was overrun by tbe Hessians, he 
collected a few of his neighbors and had a fight with a party of the enemy at 
Moore's Mill, in which the leader of the Hessians, with a dozen men, were 
taken prisoners. Col. Houghton remained in the field during the whole war, 
and was afterwards a member of the Legislature from Hunterdon. He was a 
member of the Hopewell Baptist Church, and died in 1795. 


Jonathan, the ancestor of the Stouts, came to Hopewell from Middletown, 
in this State, in the year 1706. His family was one of the first three which 
settled on the tract now called Hopewell. The place, then, was a wilderness, 
and full of Indians. "The family of the Stouts are so remarkable for their 
number, origin, and character, in both church and state, that their history 
deserves to be conspicuously recorded; and no place can be so proper as that 
of Hopewell, where the bulk of the family resides. We have already seen 
that Jonathan Stout and family were the seed of the Hopewell church, and 
the beginning of Hopewell settlement; and that of the fifteen which consti- 
tuted the church, nine were Stouts. The church was constituted at the house 
of a Stout, and the meetings were held chiefly at the dwellings of the Stouts 
for foi'ty-oue years, viz., from the beginning of the settlement to the building 
of the meeting-house, before described. Mr. Hart was of opinion 'that, 
from first to last, ialf the members have beeu and were of that name ; for, 
in looking over the church book (saith he), I find that near two hundred 
of the name have been added; besides about as many more of the blood of the 
Stouts, who had lost the name by marriage. The present (1790) two deacons 


and four elders are Stouts; the late Zebulon aud David Stout were two of its 
main pillars; the last lived to see his offspring multiplied into one hundred 
and seventeen souls.' The origin of this Baptist family is no less remarkable, 
for they all sprang from one woman, and she as good as dead; her history is 
in the mouths of most of her posterity, and is told as follows: 'She was born 
at Amsterdam, about the year 1602; her father's name was Vanprincis; she 
and her first husband (whose name is not known) sailed for New York (then 
New Amsterdam) about the year 1620 ; the vessel was stranded at Sandy 
Hook, the crew got ashore, and marched towards the said New York ; but 
Penelope's (for that was her name) husband being hurt in the wreck, could 
not march with them ; therefore, he and the wife tarried in the woods. They 
had not been long in the place before the Indians killed them both (as they 
thought), and stripped them to the skin. However, Penelope came to, though 
her skull was fractured and her left shoulder so hacked that she could never 
use that arm like the other. She was also cut across the abdomen, so that 
her bowels appeared ; these she kept in with her hand. She continued in this 
situation for seven days, taking shelter in a hollow tree, and eating the ex- 
crescence of it. The seventh day she saw a deer passing by with arrows stick- 
ing in it, and soon after two Indians appeared, whom she was glad to see, in 
hope they would put her out of her misery. Accordingly, one made towards 
her to knock her on the head, but the other, who was an elderly man, pre- 
vented him, and, throwing his matchcoat about her, carried her to his wigwam, 
and cured her of her wounds and bruises. After that he took her to New 
York, and made a present of her to her countrymen, viz., an Indian present, 
expecting ten times the value in return. It was in New York that one Richard 
Stout married her. He was a native of England, and of a good family. She 
was now in her 22d year, and he iu his 40th. She bore him seven sons and 
three daughters, viz., Jonathan (founder of Hopewell), John, Richard, James, 
Peter, David, Benjamin, Mary, Sarah, and Alice. The daughters married into 
the families of the Bounds, Pikes, Throckmortons, and Skeltons, and so lost 
the name of Stout: the sons married into the families of Bullen, Crawford, 
Ashton, Traux, &c, and had many children. The mother lived to the age of 
110, and saw her offspring multiplied into 502, in about 88 years.' " — Bene- 
dict's Hist. Baptists. 


Abraham Clark was born in the borough of Elizabethtown, 
county of Essex, and province of New Jersey, on the fifteenth of 
February, 1726. He was the only child of Alderman Thomas Clark, 
whose ancestors first settled upon the farm which descended to his 
son. He enjoyed a good English education, under competent teach- 
ers, and was particularly addicted to the study of the mathematics, 
and of civil law. In the year 1743, at the age of twenty-two years, 
he married Sarah Hetfield, of Elizabethtown, who survived him 
ten years. 

On the twenty-first of June, 1776, he was appointed by the pro- 
vincial congress, in conjunction with Richard Stockton, John Hart, 
Francis Hopkinson, and Dr. John Witherspoon, a delegate to the 
continental congress. They were instructed to unite with the dele- 
gates of the other colonies in the most vigorous measures for sup- 
porting the just rights and liberties of America, and if it should be 
deemed necessary or expedient for this purpose, to join with them 
in declaring the United Colonies independent of Great Britain. 

Mr. Clark applied himself zealously to the discharge of his new 
duties, and was, for a long time, one of the leading -members of the 
Jersey delegation. His industry, abilities, and perseverance in the 
business of committees, and his plain, clear view of general mea- 
sures, rendered him a valuable member of the house; while his 
patriotism and integrity attracted the respect and admiration of his 
colleagues. His faith and firmness were amply tested, a few days 
after he took his seat, by his cordial co-operation with those who 
advocated the immediate proclamation of Independence; and it is 
believed that his strong conviction of the propriety of that measure 
united with his many political virtues in promoting his appointment. 
One of the first duties which devolved on him as a member of the 
great national council, involving personal safety and fortune, and, 
what ranked above all other considerations in the estimation of 
Mr. Clark, the liberties of his country, was discharged with alacrity; 
33 w2 331 


and he affixed his name to the Declaration of Independence, with 
those feelings of pride and resolution which are excited by a noble 
but dangerous action. On the thirtieth of November, 1776, he was 
again elected by the provincial congress of New Jersey, and con- 
tinued, with the exception of the session of 1779, to be annually 
re-elected a delegate from that state until the month of November, 
1783. During this long period of service, his necessary intimacy 
with the proceedings of congress, and the course and nature of the 
arduous and protracted affairs which frequently demanded a great 
extent of memory and attention, rendered him an active and useful 
member. In 1788, he again took his seat in the national legislature. 

The intervals of his non-election to congress were not devoted 
to leisure, nor applied to that relief from public cares which the 
feebleness of his constitution required. His exertions and services 
in the state legislature, of which he was a member during those 
periods, were properly appreciated, and his influence became so 
extensive, that he personally incurred popular praise or reproach, 
in proportion to the applause or odium excited by the general acts 
of the legislature. 

Mr. Clark possessed the reputation of being a rigid economist in 
all things relating to the public treasure. Having, during the im- 
poverished state of the country, strongly opposed a proposition of 
commutation for pay made in behalf of the officers of the revolu- 
tionary army, they became his decided enemies, and united their 
influence with the legal interest, in opposing his popularity. In jus- 
tification of the course which he had pursued, he maintained that he, 
as well as many other civil officers, had cheerfully sacrificed a large 
share of property and domestic enjoyment for the public benefit, 
and that he considered the officers of the army, in common with 
himself, his family, and all others, as fully compensated for years of 
suffering and privation, by the result of the contest. 

Mr. Clark was one among the earliest promoters of those mea- 
sures which led to a convention for the purpose of framing a more 
stable and efficacious constitution for the government of the states. 
He had frequently discussed this subject with Governor Clinton, of 
New York, particularly as it related to the oppressive conduct of 
the government of that state, in levying duties on vessels from 
other states; and he had demonstrated the dangerous tendency of 
the measure. It is not, however, probable that he contemplated, at 
that period, the magnificent fabric which was subsequently erected 
on the ruins of the old confederation ; his views and wishes were 


then circumscribed to an enlargement of the powers of the latter 

In 1787 he was appointed a member of the general convention 
which framed the federal constitution, but was prevented by ill 
health from joining in the deliberations of that illustrious assembly. 
He was opposed to the constitution, in its primitive form; but his 
objections being removed by subsequent amendments, it met with 
his cordial approbation and support. Advantage was taken of 
these free sentiments by those who were inimical to Mr. Clark. His 
objections were magnified into a charge of anti-federalism, which, 
joined with the opposition of the legal interest, and of the discon- 
tented officers, together with a corrupt election, (which was referred 
to the first congress,) placed him, for the only time during his long 
political life, in the minority in the elections of New Jersey. He 
was, however, appointed, in the winter of 1789-1790, a commis- 
sioner to settle the accounts of the state with the United States, 
which office he held until the ensuing election, when he was elected 
a representative in the second congress, and continued to hold this 
honourable appointment until a short time previous to his death. 

Towards the close of his public career, Mr. Clark continued, with 
unimpaired activity, to engage in the promotion of such political 
measures as, according to his mature judgment, appeared compati- 
ble with the welfare of his country, or necessary for the support of 
its dignity. In the congress of 1794, he exerted his influence and 
talents in support of the memorable resolutions submitted by Mr. 
Madison, relative to the commerce of the United States. 

The proceedings of the national legislature continued gradually 
to assume a more threatening character, and a war with Great Bri- 
tain appeared to be almost inevitable. The irritable state of the 
public temper was felt upon the floor of congress, and the debates 
were conducted with peculiar vehemence. Numerous propositions 
had been made, during the general ferment, of the most decisive 
nature. On the twenty-seventh of March, 1794, Mr. Dayton moved 
a resolution for sequestering all debts due to British subjects, for 
the purpose of indemnifying our citizens for spoliations committed 
on their commerce by British cruisers; but, before any question 
was taken on this proposition, Mr. Clark moved a resolution which 
suspended, for a time, the consideration of the commercial regula- 
tions. This was to prohibit all intercourse with Great Britain, until 
full compensation was made to our citizens for the injuries sustained 
by them from British armed vessels, and until the western posts 


should be delivered up. Warm and animated discussions of the 
several propositions continued to take place daily, but they were 
suffered, by the majority, to remain undecided. On the sixteenth 
of April, President Washington announced to the senate, the nomi- 
nation of the honourable John Jay as envoy extraordinary to his 
Britannic majesty, for the purpose of adjusting the difficulties which 
existed between the two countries. 

On the eighteenth of April, a motion to consider the report of 
the committee on the resolution proposed by Mr. Clark, was opposed 
principally on the ground, that as Mr. Jay had been nominated to 
the court of Great Britain, no obstacle ought to be thrown in his 
way. It was also said, that the adoption of the resolution would 
be a bar to negotiation, as it used the language of menace, and 
would certainly be received with indignation; that it also prescribed 
the terms on which alone a treaty should be made, and was conse- 
quently an infringement of the right of the executive to negotiate, 
and an indelicacy to the department; and that, as it withheld the 
benefits of American commerce from one belligerent, while it re- 
mained free to the other, it manifested a partiality which was in- 
compatible with neutrality, and led to war. On the contrary, it was 
urged that the measure was strictly within the duty of the legis- 
lature, they having solely the right to regulate commerce; that, if 
there was any indelicacy in the clashing of the proceedings of the 
legislature and executive, it was to the latter, and not to the for- 
mer, that this indelicacy was to be imputed; that the resolution had 
been several days depending in the house, before the nomination of 
an envoy had been made; and that America, having a right as an 
independent nation to regulate her own commerce, the resolution 
could not lead to war. A bill was finally brought in conforming to 
Mr. Clark's resolution, and carried by a considerable majority. It 
was, however, lost in the senate, on the twenty-eighth of April, by 
the casting vote of Mr. Adams, the vice president. 

The feelings which actuated Mr. Clark in his course of public 
usefulness, were wholly disinterested. Separating the patriot from 
the father, he scrupulously refrained from exerting his influence 
with congress in favour of his sons, who were officers in the army, 
and had been captured by the enemy: yet a part of their confine- 
ment was in the prison-ship Jersey, and they suffered more than 
the ordinary hardships of prisoners. In one instance, however, 
paternal feeling was exercised with propriety. The treatment of 
American prisoners by the British had, in many cases, been pecu- 

A GRAHAM C L A R K . 335 

liarly barbarous, and disgraceful to a civilized nation, and retaliation 
was the indirect mode by which protection was afforded to our suf- 
fering countrymen. Thomas Clark, a son of Mr. Clark, and a cap- 
tain of artillery, experienced the most cruel persecution: he was 
immured in a dungeon, with no other food than that which was in- 
troduced by his fellow prisoners through a key-hole. A represen- 
tation of this fact being made to congress, retaliation was resorted 
to in the person of a British captain ; the desired result was pro- 
duced, and Captain Clark's sufferings were mitigated. 

Exhausted by his political toils, and the infirmities incident to a 
feeble constitution, Mr. Clark finally retired from public life on the 
adjournment of congress, ninth June, 1794. — Patriotism was the 
most distinguishing trait in the character of this plain and pious 
man. In private life, he was reserved and contemplative: prefer- 
ring retirement to company, and reflection to amusement, he ap- 
peared to be continually absorbed in the affairs of the public. 
Limited in his circumstances, moderate in his desires, and unam- 
bitious of wealth, he was far from being parsimonious in his private 
concerns, although a rigid economist in public affairs. — His person 
was of the common height, his form slender, and his eyebrows 
heavy, which gave an appearance of austerity to his countenance. 
His habits were extremely temperate, and his manner thoughtful 
and sedate. 

In the autumn of 1794, this excellent man experienced a coup de 
soldi, or stroke of the sun, which terminated his existence in two 
hours. He died in the sixty-ninth year of his age, and was buried 
in the church-yard at Railway, upon which church he had bestowed 
numerous benefactions. The inscription which designates the 
grave of the patriot, comprehends a concise view of the character 
of him who rests within it: 

Firm and decided as a patriot, 

Zealous and faithful as a friend to the public, 

He loved his country, 

And adhered to her cause 

In the darkest hours of her struggles 

Against oppression. 


The Declaration of Independence was signed on behalf of the 
state of Pennsylvania by nine delegates, Robert Morris, Ben- 
jamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George 
Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, and 
George Ross. 

The first of these, Robert Morris, was born in Lancashire, in 
the month of January, 1733-4, O. S. of respectable parentage; his 
father being a merchant of some eminence in Liverpool, and ex- 
tensively engaged in trade with the American colonies. Mr. Morris, 
having formed the design of emigrating, embarked for America, 
leaving his son under the care of his grandmother, to whom he was 
extremely attached. Having established himself at Oxford, on the 
river Treadhaven, Talbot county, Maryland, he sent to England for 
young Morris, who arrived at the age of thirteen years. 

Mr. Morris did not enjoy the benefits of a classical education. 
He was placed under the tuition of one Annan, at that time one of 
the few teachers in Philadelphia, and his progress in learning does 
not appear to have been very rapid. 

His father, at this period, carried on an extensive business, as 
agent for vessels from Liverpool. Having invited a large party to 
dine on board of one of these ships, he was returning to shore in 
the yawl, after the conclusion of the festivity, when the captain fired 
a salute in honour of the occasion, although in opposition to the 
expressed injunction of Mr. Morris. A wad from one of the guns 
unfortunately struck, and inflicted a severe wound on his arm, 
which mortified, and caused his death. His memory was so highly 
esteemed, that the gentlemen residing in the vicinity solemnly en- 
joined in their wills that his tomb should be preserved inviolate. 
His favourite dog could not be enticed from the body of his deceased 
master, and died upon the grave. 

Mr. Morris was left an orphan at the age of fifteen years. He 
had previously been placed by his father with Mr. Charles Willing, 



190 Market- Street 

S.E. c'or. 6"' 3 Marke- St ; 


at that time one of the first merchants of Philadelphia, for the pur- 
pose of receiving a commercial education. Although deprived of 
the benefit of parental counsel, his clerkship was characterized by 
the greatest fidelity and attention, and he soon gained the implicit 
confidence of Mr. Willing. 

His extensive mercantile knowledge, and close application to the 
discharge of his duties, attracted the friendship and confidence of 
Mr. Thomas Willing, who proposed to him, some time after the ex- 
piration of the term for which he had engaged himself, to form to- 
gether a commercial connection. This partnership was entered into 
in the year 1754, and continued until 1793, embracing the long pe- 
riod of thirty-nine years. Mr. Morris was the acting partner, and 
previous to the commencement of the revolution, the house was en- 
gaged more extensively in commerce than any other in Philadelphia. 

The unalterable resolution of Mr. Morris, with respect to his po- 
litical course of conduct, appears to have been formed in the early 
part of the year 1775 : the shedding of American blood in Massa- 
chusetts, for ever fixed the principles upon which his resplendent 
services in the darkest days of the revolution were founded, and ex- 
tinguished the last glimmering of hope that the evils and miseries 
of war might yet be averted. On St. George's day, twenty-third 
April, 1775, about one hundred guests and members of the St. 
George's Society were assembled at the City Tavern in Philadel- 
phia, to celebrate the anniversary of their tutelary saint. Mr. Mor- 
ris was the presiding officer. Reconciliation and a change of minis- 
ters were the phantoms which had lulled and deluded the American 
community. About five o'clock in the afternoon, in the height of 
their festivity, when moderate hilarity alone had attended their liba- 
tions, the news of the massacre at Lexington, which occurred four 
days previous, was communicated to the company. The change of 
scene was instantaneous and appalling : an electric shock could not 
have been more suddenly prostrating. The tables were immedi- 
ately deserted, and the seats overturned. Mr. Morris, and a few 
members, among whom was Richard Peters, retained their seats, 
and viewed this extraordinary display in silent astonishment. When 
the fugitives had retreated, a solemn scene succeeded the merri- 
ment and gaiety which, a few moments before, had resounded 
through the hall. After feelingly deploring the awful event which 
separated them for ever from the British government ; the small 
party that remained took leave of their patron saint, and pronounced 
a solemn requiem over the painted vapour, — reconciliation. Mr. 


Morris, in unison with his associates, at that time avowed his irre- 
vocable decision as to revolutionary measures, from which he never 

The appointment of Mr. Morris, by the legislature of Pennsylva- 
nia, on the third of November, 1775, as one of the delegates to the 
second congress, was his first formal entrance into public life. Soon 
after he had assumed his seat in congress, he was added to the secret 
committee, (of which he was the chairman,) that had been formed, 
on the eighteenth of September, to contract for the importation of 
arms, ammunition and gunpowder. On the eleventh of December, 
he was appointed a member of the committee to devise ways and 
means of furnishing the colonies with a naval armament ; and their 
report, embracing the expedience of augmenting the navy by the 
addition of five ships of 32, five of 28, and three of 24 guns, being 
adopted, a naval committee was formed, of which Mr. Morris was a 
member, with full powers to carry the plan into execution, with all 
possible expedition. In the beginning of 1776, he was conspicuous 
in the discussions which attended the regulation of trade, and the 
restrictions under which it ought to be placed. On the fifteenth of 
April, 1776, he was specially commissioned to negotiate bills of ex- 
change, with a pledge of indemnity from congress should any loss 
arise from his responsibility as the endorser.* On the twentieth of 
July, he was re-elected a representative of the state of Pennsyl- 

When the approach of the enemy through New Jersey caused the 
removal of congress from Philadelphia to Baltimore, the national 
affairs wore a gloomy and disheartening aspect. In December, 
1776, when congress retired from Philadelphia, a committee, con- 
sisting of Mr. Morris, Mr. Clymer, and Mr. Walton, was appointed, 
with extensive powers, to remain in that city, and execute all ne- 
cessary and proper continental business. Being in daily expectation 
of the arrival of the enemy, Mr. Morris removed his family to the 
country, and resided with an intimate friend who had resolved, at 
every hazard, to remain in the city. At this time, he received a let- 

* On the first of July he voted against the Declaration of Independence, and on 
the fourth, declined voting at all, considering the time premature and inappropriate. 
Shortly after this he wrote to the commissioners at Paris, " Our people knew not 
the hardship and calamities of war, when they so boldly dared Britain to arms." 
And to Gen. Gates, " The business of all America seems to be making constitutions. 
It is the fruits of a certain premature declaration, which you know I always oppo- 
sed. My opposition was founded on the evil consequences I foresaw, and the pre- 
sent state of several of the colonies justifies my apprehensions." 


ter from General Washington, who was then encamped with the 
army at the place now called New Hope, on the Delaware, in which 
it was stated, that while the enemy was accurately informed of all 
his movements, he was compelled, from the want of specie, to re 
main in complete ignorance of their designs, and that a certain sum 
specified, was absolutely necessary to the safety of the army, and to 
enable him to obtain such intelligence of the movements and precise 
position of the enemy on the opposite shore, as would authorize him 
to act offensively. This pressing application, and appeal to the feel 
ings of Mr. Morris, which, from the urgency of the occasion, was 
despatched by a confidential messenger, was received at a time 
when compliance was almost hopeless, owing to the general flight 
of the citizens. He frequently adverted to the mental depression 
which he experienced on that trying occasion, and to the means he 
employed to relieve the necessities of the commander-in-chief. From 
the time he received the despatch until evening, he revolved deeply 
and gloomily in his mind, the means through which he might realize 
the expectations which had been formed from his patriotism and in- 
fluence : his usual hour of retiring from the counting-room arrived, 
and as he was proceeding slowly and sorrowfully home, he acci- 
dentally met a gentleman of the society of Friends, with whom he 
was intimate, and who placed implicit confidence in his integrity. 
He inquired the news from Mr. Morris, who replied; "The most 
important news is, that I require a certain sum in specie, and that 
you must let me have it." His friend hesitated and mused for a mo- 
ment — " Your security is to be my note and my honour," continued 
Mr. Morris. — " Robert, thou shalt have it," replied the friend ; and 
this personal loan, causing a prompt and timely compliance with the 
demand, enabled General Washington to gain the signal victory 
over the hireling Hessians at Trenton. Such was the instrumen- 
tality of Robert Morris, in the victory of Trenton ; and it may be 
truly remarked, that although his own brows were unadorned with 
the laurels of the warrior, it was his hand which crowned the heroes 
who triumphed on that day. 

On the tenth of March, 1777, he was, a third time, appointed by 
the assembly of Pennsylvania to represent that state in congress, in 
conjunction with Benjamin Franklin, George Clymer, James Wil- 
son, Daniel Roberdeau, and Jonathan B. Smith. During this year, 
the "secret committee" was dissolved, and succeeded in all its 
powers by the "committee of commerce," of which Mr. Morris was 
a prominent member. On the twenty-eighth of November, he was 
34 X 


selected, together with Mr. Gerry and Mr. Jones, to repair to the 
army, and in a private confidential consultation with the comman- 
der-in-chief, to consider the best and most practicable means for 
conducting a winter campaign with vigour and success, and, with 
the concurrence of General Washington, to direct every measure 
which circumstances might require for the promotion of the public 
service. He was frequently and actively engaged in managing the 
fiscal concerns of congress, a duty for which his capacity for busi- 
ness, and intimate knowledge of pecuniary transactions, rendered 
him peculiarly competent. On the twenty-seventh of August, 1778, 
he was appointed a member of the standing committee of finance. 
Besides the enthusiastic zeal which he manifested in the cause of 
his country, and the financial talents which he possessed, his com- 
mercial credit probably ranked higher than that of any other man 
in the community; and this credit he unhesitatingly devoted to the 
public service, whenever necessity required such an evidence of his 
patriotism and disinterestedness. These occasions were neither few 
in their number, nor trifling in their nature. Mr. Morris frequently 
obtained pecuniary as well as other supplies, which were most press- 
ingly required for the service, on his own responsibility, and appa- 
rently on his own account, when, from the known state of the public 
treasury, they could not have been procured by the government. 
Judge Peters, from his official station, possessed the most perfect 
knowledge of every military transaction, and of the influence of 
Mr. Morris in giving efficacy to enterprise. The personal friendship 
which subsisted between those active and enlightened patriots, and 
their constant co-operation in the great work of freedom, closely 
united them together ; and it is by the pen of the latter statesman, 
that the particulars of the providential supply of lend for the army 
is afforded. "In 1779 or 1780, two of the most distressing years 
of the war, General Washington wrote to me a most alarming ac- 
count of the prostrate condition of the military stores, and enjoined 
my immediate exertions to supply the deficiencies. There were no 
musket-cartridges but those in the men's boxes, and they were wet; 
of course, if attacked, a retreat, or a rout, was inevitable. We (the 
board of war) had exhausted all the lead accessible to us, having 
caused even the spouts of houses to be melted, and had offered, 
abortively, the equivalent in paper of two shillings specie per pound 
for lead. I went, in the evening of the day on which I received 
this letter, to a splendid entertainment, given by Don Juan Mi- 
railles, the Spanish minister. My heart was sad, but I had the 


faculty of brightening my countenance, even under gloomy disas- 
ters; yet it seems then not sufficiently adroitly. Mr. Morris, who 
was one of the guests, and knew me well, discovered some casual 
traits of depression. He accosted me in his usual blunt and disen- 
gaged manner: 'I see some clouds passing across the sunny coun- 
tenance you assume; what is the matter?' After some hesitation, 
I showed him the general's letter, which I had brought from the 
office, with the intention of placing it at home in a private cabinet. 
He played with my anxiety, which he did not relieve for some time. 
At length, however, with great and sincere delight, he called me 
aside, and told me that the Holkar privateer had just arrived at his 
wharf, with ninety tons of lead, which she had brought as ballast. 
It had been landed at Martinique, and stone ballast had supplied its 
place; but this had been put on shore, and the lead again taken in. 
'You shall have my half of this fortunate supply; there are the 
owners of the other half (indicating gentlemen in the apartment.) 
'Yes, but I am already under heavy personal engagements, as 
guarantee for the department, to those, and other gentlemen.' 
'Well,' rejoined Mr. Morris, 'they will take your assumption with 
my guarantee.' I, instantly, on these terms, secured the lead, left 
the entertainment, sent for the proper officers, and set more than 
one hundred people to work, during the night. Before morning, a 
supply of cartridges was ready, and sent off to the army. I could 
relate many more such occurrences. Thus did our affairs succeed, 
"per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum;" and these discrimina 
rerum occurred so often, that we had frequently occasion feelingly 
to exclaim, 

' Quod optanti divum promiltere nemo 
Auserat — Fors en ! attulit ultra.' 

Events, happy or adverse, succeeded each other so rapidly, that the 
present almost obliterated the past; at least the actual employment 
growing out of the present, often critical, arduous, and hazardous, 
blunted our recollection. We lived, in many periods of our strug- 
gle, by the day; and deemed ourselves happy, if the sun set upon 
us without misfortune." 

Few public men have escaped the breath of slander. During the 
time that congress assembled at Yorktown, reflections were indulged 
by a member of that body, which tended to raise a suspicion of 
fraudulent proceedings to the detriment of the public, by the house 
of Willing, Morris, &. Co. The established character of Mr. Lau- 
rens impresses the belief that his sole object in making these remarks 


was to do justice; and this opinion is strengthened by his co-opera- 
tion, however late, in the vindication of Mr. Morris. On the nine 
teenth of January, 1779, a committee of five was appointed to in- 
quire into the facts set forth, in the accusatory papers which had 
been submitted to congress. They reported, and congress, there- 
fore, unanimously agreed with the report, that the defence of Mr. 
Morris was full and explicit on every fact, circumstance, and ques- 
tion, stated in the charges against him, and supported by clear and 
satisfactory vouchers; that he had clearly and fully vindicated him- 
self; and that in the execution of the powers committed to him by 
the secret committee, he had acted with fidelity and integrity, and 
an honourable zeal for the welfare of his country. — Similar asper 
sions were heaped upon him during the course of his financial career, 
which, when he deigned to notice them at all, were dissipated with 
equal facility and success. 

In the year 1780, when the reverses in the south had produced 
general depression, and the increasing and clamorous wants of the 
army threatened its total dissolution, Mr. Morris, with a zeal guided 
by that sound discretion which turns expenditure to the best account, 
established a bank, in conjunction with many patriotic citizens of 
Philadelphia, the principal object of which was to supply the army 
with provisions and rum. The directors were authorized to borrow 
money on the credit of the bank, and to grant special notes bearing 
interest at six per cent. The credit of the members was to be 
employed, and their money advanced, if necessary, but no emolu- 
ments whatever were to be derived from the institution. Congress, 
while they expressed a high sense of this patriotic transaction, 
pledged the faith of the United States effectually to reimburse and 
indemnify the associators. Thus, at a time when the public credit 
was at its lowest ebb, and the public exigencies most pressing, an 
institution was erected on the credit and exertions of a few patriotic 
individuals, for the purpose of supplying, and transporting, to the 
army, three millions of rations, and three hundred hogsheads of 
rum ; it continued until the ensuing year, when the Bank of North 
America was established. 

The last re-election of Mr. Morris to congress, previous to the 
adoption of the Federal Constitution, occurred on the thirteenth of 
December, 1777. 

On the twentieth of February, 1781, Robert Morris was unani- 
mously elected superintendent of finance. To offer a succinct view 
of the Herculean task which this appointment imposed upon him, it 


is necessary to state, that he was required to examine into the situa- 
tion of the public debts, expenditures, and revenue ; to digest and 
report plans for improving and regulating the finances, and for es- 
tablishing order and economy in the disbursement of the public 
money ; to direct the execution of all plans adopted by congress re- 
specting revenue and expenditure ; to superintend the settlement of 
all public accounts ; to direct and control all persons employed in 
procuring supplies for the public service, and in the expenditure of 
public money ; to obtain accounts of all the issues of the specific 
supplies furnished by the several states; to compel the payment of 
all moneys due to the United States, and in his official character, to 
prosecute in behalf of those states, for all delinquencies respecting 
the public revenue and expenditure ; and to report to congress the 
officers necessary for conducting the various branches of his depart- 
ment. By successive resolutions of congress, he was subsequently 
empowered to appoint and remove, at his pleasure, his assistants in 
his peculiar office; as well as those persons, not immediately ap- 
pointed by congress, as were officially intrusted with the expendi- 
ture of the public supplies ; to appoint agents to prosecute or defend 
for him in his official capacity; to manage and dispose of the mo- 
neys granted by his Most Christian Majesty to the United States, 
and the specific supplies required from the several states ; to procure 
on contract all necessary supplies for the army, navy, artificers and 
prisoners of war ; to make provision for the support of the civil list ; 
to correspond with the foreign ministers of the United States upon 
subjects relating to his department ; and to take under his care and 
management, all loans and other moneys obtained in Europe, or 
elsewhere, for the use of the United States. He was also autho- 
rized to import and export goods, money, or other articles for ac- 
count of the United States, to any extent he should deem useful to 
the public service. Such is a slight sketch of the duties which this 
office alone devolved on him, for it would be utterly impossible to 
enumerate the vast variety of measures in which he co-operated for 
the public benefit : while to trace him through all the acts of his 
financial administration, would involve the history of the last two 
years of the revolutionary war. When the exhausted credit of the 
government threatened the most alarming consequences ; when the 
army was utterly destitute of the necessary supplies of food and 
clothing; when the military chest had been drained of its last dol- 
lar, and even the confidence of Washington was shaken; Robert 
Morris, upon his own credit, and from his private resources, fur- 


nished those pecuniary means, without which all the physical force 
of the country would have been in vain. 

At this period, a deep gloom enveloped the prospects of America, 
the darkness of which may be imagined from the summary presented 
by Washington at the commencement of his Military Journal, on 
the first of May, 1781. "Instead of having magazines filled with 
provisions, we have a scanty pittance scattered here and there in 
the several states : Instead of having our arsenals well supplied 
with military stores, they are poorly provided, and the workmen all 
leaving them: Instead of having the various articles of field equi- 
page ready to deliver, the quarter-master-general is but now applying 
to the several states (as the dernier resort) to provide these things 
for their troops respectively : Instead of having a regular system 
of transportation established upon credit, or funds in the quarter- 
master's hand to defray the contingent expenses of it, we have nei- 
ther the one nor the other ; and all that business, or a great part 
of it, being done by military impressment, we are daily and hourly 
oppressing the people, souring their tempers, and alienating their 
affections : Instead of having the regiments completed to the new 
establishments, scarce any state in the union has, at this hour, one 
eighth part of its quota in the field ; and there is little prospect that 
I can see, of ever getting more than one half. In a word, instead 
of having every thing in readiness to take the field, we have no- 
thing ; and, instead of having the prospect of a glorious offensive 
campaign before us, we have a bewildered and gloomy prospect 
of a defensive one, unless we should receive a powerful aid of ships, 
land troops, and money, from our generous allies : and these at 
present are too contingent to build upon." 

Such were the clouds which overshadowed the campaign of 1781; 
but they were dissipated by the resources and energy of Mr. Mor- 
ris. Uniting great political talents with a degree of mercantile en- 
terprise, information, and credit, seldom equalled in any country, 
and urged by the critical state of public affairs and the pressing 
wants of the army, he entered immediately on the duties of his of- 
fice, without reference to the stipulation touching the prior arrange- 
ments of his mercantile affairs. The occasion required that he 
should bring his private credit in aid of the public resources, and 
pledge himself personally and extensively, for articles of the most 
absolute necessity, which could not be otherwise obtained. Con- 
demning the system of violence and of legal fraud, which had too 
long been practised, as one which was calculated to defeat its own 


object, he sought the gradual restoration of confidence, by the only 
means which could restore it, — a punctual and faithful compliance 
with the engagements he should make. Herculean as was this task, 
in the existing derangement of the American finances, he entered 
upon it with courage, and if not completely successful, certainly did 
more than could have been supposed practicable with the means 
placed in his hands. Incited by a penetrating and indefatigable 
mind, and supported by the confidence which his probity and punc- 
tuality, through the various grades of commercial pursuits, had 
established, he discarded, in this threatening conjuncture, consider- 
ations applying forcibly to his own reputation, and devoted his en 
tire attention to the resuscitation of public credit. Promulgating 
his determination to meet every engagement with punctuality, he 
was sought with eagerness by all who had the means of supplying 
the public wants. The scene suddenly changed : faithfully perform 
ing his promise, the public deficiencies began to disappear, and mili- 
tary operations no longer were suspended by failure of the neces 
sary means. Strong in his personal credit, and true to his engage- 
ments, the superintendent became every day stronger in the public 
confidence, and unassisted, except by a small portion of a small 
loan of six millions of livres tournois, granted by the court of Ver- 
sailles to the United States, this individual citizen gave food and 
motion to the main army ; proving by his conduct, that credit is the 
offspring of integrity, economy, system, and punctuality. 

When Mr. Morris assumed the duties of his office, the treasury 
was more than two millions and a half of dollars in arrcar ; the 
greater part of this debt was of such a nature that the payment 
could neither be avoided nor delayed; and Dr. Franklin was there- 
fore under the necessity of ordering back from Amsterdam, money 
which had been sent thither for the purpose of being shipped to 
America: had he not taken this step, the bills of exchange drawn 
by congress must have been protested, and the tottering credit of 
the government in Europe, would have been wholly prostrated. 
Public and private distress every where existed: the credit of the 
government was so far destroyed, as to form a foundation on which 
the enemy erected the most sanguine expectations of conquest : 
many public officers could not perform their duties, without pay- 
ment of the arrears due from the treasury, and without immediate 
aid must have been imprisoned for debts which enabled them to 
live. The public treasury was reduced to so low an ebb, that some 
of the members of the board of war declared to Mr. Morris, they 


had not the means of sending an express to the army. Starvation 
threatened the troops ; and the paper bills of credit had so far de- 
preciated, that it required a burdensome mass to pay for an article 
of clothing. The gigantic efforts of the financier, however, dissi- 
pated these appalling prospects with an almost miraculous rapidity. 
To him it was principally owing that the armies of America did not 
disband; and that congress, instead of yielding to an inevitable 
necessity, recovered the means, not only of sustaining the efforts of 
the enemy, but of resuming the offensive with vigour and success. 

The establishment of the Bank of North America was one of the 
first, and most prominent, acts in the administration of Mr. Morris ; 
and but for this institution, his plans of finance must have been 
totally frustrated. Previous to the war, he had laid the foundation 
of a bank, and established a credit in Europe for the purpose of 
carrying the scheme into execution. His design, however, was de- 
feated by the revolution, and he now devoted to the benefit of his 
country, the knowledge that he had acquired of the principles of 
banking, and of the advantages resulting to a commercial commu- 
nity from a well-regulated bank, by enabling merchants, in cases 
of exigency, to anticipate their funds, and to take advantage of 
occasions which offered well-grounded schemes of speculation. On 
the seventeenth of May, he submitted to the consideration of con- 
gress, his plan for establishing a national bank, accompanied with 
explanatory observations. " Anticipation of taxes and funds," he 
remarked, " is all that ought to be. expected from any system of 
paper credit: this seems as likely to rise into a fabric equal to the 
weight, as any I have yet seen, or thought of; and I submit whether 
it may not be necessary and proper, that congress make immediate 
application to the several states to invest them with the powers of 
incorporating a bank, and for prohibiting all other banks or bankers 
in these states, at least during the war." The capital of the bank 
was established at four hundred thousand dollars, in shares of four 
hundred dollars each, payable in gold or silver. Twelve directors 
were to manage the affairs of the institution, who were empowered, 
under certain restrictions, to increase the capital of the bank. It 
was to be incorporated by the government, and be subject to the 
inspection of the superintendent of finance, with the privilege, at all 
times, of access to the books and papers. Such were the bases and 
principal features of the establishment. The utility to be derived 
from it was that the notes of the bank, payable on demand, should 
be declared legal money for the payment of all duties and taxes in 


each of the United States, and receivable into the public treasury 
as gold or silver. This necessary and beneficial institution received 
the full approbation of congress, on the twenty-sixth of May: it 
was resolved, with the dissenting voice of Massachusetts alone, that 
the subscribers should be incorporated as soon as the subscriptions 
were filled; that the several states should be requested to provide 
that no other banks, or bankers, should be established during the 
war; that the notes of the bank should be receivable in payment of 
nil taxes, duties, and debts, due to the United States; and that the 
several state legislatures should be earnestly required to pass laws, 
making it felony to counterfeit the notes of the bank. 

In consequence of these resolutions, the plan of the bank was 
published by Mr. Morris, with a suitable and urgent address to the 
public. "To ask the end," he observed, "which it is proposed to 
answer by this institution of a bank, is merely to call the public at- 
tention to the situation of our affairs. A depreciating paper cur- 
rency has unhappily been the source of infinite private mischief, 
numberless frauds, and the greatest distress. The national cala- 
mities have moved with an equal pace, and the public credit has 
received the deepest injury. This is a circumstance so unusual in 
a republican government, that we may boldly affirm it cannot con- 
tinue a moment after the several legislatures have determined to 
take those vigorous and effectual measures, to which the public 
voice now loudly commands their attention. In the mean time, the 
exigencies of the United States require an anticipation of our reve- 
nues; while, at the same time, there is not such confidence estab- 
lished as will call out, for that purpose, the funds of individual 
citizens. The use, then, of a bank, is to aid the government by 
their moneys and credit, for which they will have every proper 
reward and security; to gain from individuals that credit which 
property, abilities, and integrity, never fail to command; to supply 
the loss of that paper money, which becoming more and more use- 
less, calls every day more loudly for its final redemption; and to 
give a new spring to commerce, in a moment when, by the removal 
of all restrictions, the citizens of America shall enjoy and possess 
that freedom for which they contend." 

Mr. Morris, from motives of official duty, as well as the conviction 
of its utility, continued incessantly to promote the progress of this 
plan; but such was the public distress, and the gloomy prospect of 
public affairs, that, notwithstanding the zealous endeavours of indi- 
viduals, the necessary sum was not subscribed until the year 1782 


and it was some time after the business of the bank was fairly com 
menced, before the actual sum paid in by individual subscribers 
amounted to seventy thousand dollars. In the mean time the 
exertions of the financier were unremitting. 

Mr. Morris, finding that it was impracticable to procure the whole 
amount of the capital from individual subscriptions, subscribed, on 
account of the United States, for stock to the amount of two hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars ; and it was principally upon this 
fund, that the operations of the institution were commenced. Four 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars had been imported from France, 
and deposited in the bank, and he had determined, from the moment 
of its arrival, to subscribe for those shares which remained vacant ; 
but one half the sum was exhausted by the public expenditures 
before the institution could be organized. At length, on the thirty- 
first of December, 1781, a charter of incorporation was granted by 
congress, limiting the capital to ten millions of dollars. On the 
same day, congress recommended to the several state legislatures 
to enact laws for facilitating the full operation of the institution ; and 
on the seventh of January, 1782, the bank was opened, and indi- 
viduals began to deposit their money. Mr. Morris seized this occa- 
sion to renew his solicitations to the several state governors, rela- 
tive to the passage of laws for the protection and promotion of the 
institution, the advantages of which he displayed in inviting colours' 
" It will facilitate," said he, " the management of the finances of 
the United States. The several states may, when their respective 
necessities require, and the abilities of the bank will permit, derive 
occasional advantages and accommodation from it. It will afford 
to the individuals of all the states a medium for their intercourse 
with each other, and for the payment of taxes, equally safe and 
more convenient than the precious metals. It will have a tendency 
to increase both the internal and external commerce of North Ame- 
rica, and undoubtedly will be infinitely useful to all the traders of 
every state in the Union; provided, as I have already said, it is 
conducted on the principles of equity, justice, prudence, and eco- 
nomy." On the first of April, 1782, the assembly of Pennsylvania 
agreed to, and passed, the state act of incorporation; Delaware 
pursued the same course, and other states enacted laws for the pro- 
tection of the bank. 

The country realized an extraordinary benefit from this institu- 
tion, as it enabled Mr. Morris to use, by anticipation, the funds of 
the nation ; a power of infinite value, when prudently and judiciously 


exercised. The sudden restoration of public and private credit. 
which took place on the establishment of the bank, was an event as 
extraordinary in itself, as any domestic occurrence during the pro- 
gress of the revolution. Its first operations were greatly assisted 
by the arrival of a large sum in specie, from Europe and the West 
Indies ; and, although the subscriptions to the capital stock were not 
paid with punctuality, from the great scarcity of money, yet as the 
subscribers were generally men of property, and liable to the full 
amount of their subscriptions, the directors of the bank were en- 
couraged to proceed in the business. 

The aid which the institution afforded to the country, in a period 
of great gloom and distress, was very extensive, considering its 
limited capital. Mr. Morris, as before stated, subscribed two hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars in his official capacity; but the 
finances were so much exhausted, that, in the following December, 
the bank was obliged to release the United States from their sub- 
scription, to the amount of two hundred thousand dollars; the 
remaining fifty thousand having been sold, by the superintendent, 
to individuals in Holland. 

On the twelfth of January, 1782, in less than two weeks 
after the bank was opened, the directors loaned to the United 

States, - - §100,000 

In the month of February following, - 100,000 

In the month of March following, - - - 100,000 

In the month of June following, - - - - 100,000 

Making, together, the sum of 8400,000 

In May, 1792, the state of Pennsylvania being unable to pay its 
quota of the public contribution, the bank lent it the sum of eighty 
thousand dollars; so that with a capital of three hundred thousand 
dollars, the bank actually advanced, for the public service, within 
six months after its organization, the sum of four hundred and 
eighty thousand dollars; and this will appear more extraordinary 
when it is recollected, that the heavy losses of individuals by the 
depreciation of the continental money, were then fresh in the public 
recollection, and occasioned such a distrust of every kind of paper 
engagements, that the circulation of bank notes was very limited, 
and the bank could derive but little aid from them. These loans 
were not finally reimbursed until the first of January, 17S4. 

At the commencement of the year 1781, when the overwhelming 
distress of the army had driven congress, and the commander-in- 


chief, almost to desperation, Mr. Morris, on his own private credit, 
supplied the suffering troops with several thousand barrels of flour. 
He thus prevented the design which had been contemplated by con- 
gress, of authorizing General Washington to seize all the provisions 
that could be found within twenty miles of his camp: the sanction 
of this procedure by congress would have proved extremely detri- 
mental to the cause of the country ; and it was avoided solely 
through the private credit and resources of the financier. In a let- 
ter to Thomas Lowrey, of New Jersey, on this subject, dated twenty- 
ninth of May, 1781, he makes the following remarks and assurances: 
" It seems that General Washington is now in the utmost necessity 
for some immediate supplies of flour, and I must either undertake 
to procure them, or the laws of necessity must be put in force, which 
I shall ever study to avoid and prevent. I must therefore request 
that you will immediately use your best skill, judgment, and indus- 
try, in purchasing, on the lowest terms you can, one thousand bar- 
rels of sweet, sound flour, and in sending it forward to camp in the 
most expeditious and least expensive manner that you can contrive. 
To obtain this flour readily and on good terms, I know you must 
pledge your private credit, and as I have not the money ready, 
although the means of raising it are in my power, I must also 
pledge myself to you, which I do most solemnly, as an officer of the 
public ; but lest you should, like some others, believe more in pri- 
vate than in public credit, I hereby pledge myself to pay you the cost 
and charges of this flour in hard money." " I will enable you most 
honourably to fulfil your engagements. My character, utility, and 
the public good, are much more deeply concerned in doing so than 
yours is." — In a letter of the same date, addressed to Major-Gene- 
ral Schuyler, the disinterestedness and purity of his exertions for 
the public benefit are equally apparent. In informing the comman- 
der-in-chief of these arrangements, he observes, that the distress 
of his army for want of bread had been made known to him by a 
committee of congress: "I found myself," he continues, "imme- 
diately impressed with the strongest desire to afford you relief. Not 
being prepared, in my official character, with funds or means of 
accomplishing the supplies you need, I have written to Major-Gene- 
ral Schuyler, and to Thomas Lowrey, of New Jersey, requesting 
their immediate exertions to procure, upon their own credit, one 
thousand barrels of flour each, and to send the same forward in 
parcels, as fast as procured, to camp, deliverable to your excellency's 
order; and I have pledged myself to pay them in hard money, for 


the costs and charges, within a month, six weeks, or two months. 
I shall make it a point to provide the money, being determined never 
to make an engagement that cannot be fulfilled; for if, by any means, 
I should fail in this respect, I will quit my office as useless from 
that moment." — Thus, by a liberal use of his private credit, he 
afforded food to, and restored order in, the army, at a period when 
starvation and mutiny stalked hand in hand throughout the ranks. 

In the same year, the talents and integrity of Mr. Morris attracted 
an honourable mark of confidence from the legislature of Pennsyl- 
vania, by his appointment as the agent of the state, to meet the 
requisitions of congress. After having relieved the wants of the 
moment, by his private credit, Mr. Morris proposed, and undertook, 
to furnish all the specific requisitions made by congress on Penn- 
sylvania, during the current year, on receiving, as a reimbursement, 
the taxes imposed by a law which had been recently enacted. On 
the twenty-fifth of June, the contract was agreed to by the assembly 
of the state, and on the sixth of July following, congress passed a 
resolution approving of the transaction, as having a tendency to 
promote the public service of the United States. Thus were sup- 
plies, which the government found itself incapable of furnishing, 
raised by an individual. 

The services rendered by Mr. Morris to the southern army, under 
the command of General Greene, were as extensive as the embar- 
rassed state of the finances would permit. It is stated by Marshall, 
that "the distresses of the southern army, like those of the north, 
were such that it was often difficult to keep them together. That 
he might relieve them when in the last extremity, and yet not di- 
minish the exertions made to draw support from other sources, by 
creating an opinion that any supplies could be drawn from him, Mr. 
Morris employed an agent to attend the southern army as a volun- 
teer, whose powers were unknown to General Greene. This agent 
was instructed to watch its situation, and whenever it appeared im- 
possible for the general to extricate himself from his embarrass- 
ments, to furnish him, on his pledging the faith of the government 
for repayment, with a draft on the financier for such a sum as would 
relieve the urgency of the moment. Thus was Greene frequently 
rescued from impending ruin, by aids which appeared providential, 
and for which he could not account." In a letter to General Greene, 
dated the third of October, 1781, Mr. Morris thus unfolds the state 
of their finances. "To give you an idea of my situation as to 
money, I think I need only inform you that since I have been in 


office, I have received the sum of seven hundred and fifty pounds, 
Pennsylvania money, from the treasury of this state, and that is in 
part payment of advances made for them. This is all I have re- 
ceived from the funds of America. It is true that Colonel Laurens 
has lately arrived, and brought with him a sum of money from 
France. (This occurred nearly eight months after his appointment.) 
And it is also true that I have made use of a very limited credit 
given me on France, by drawing bills of exchange; but both these 
resources taken together are vastly short of what is necessary. I 
have lost no occasion of showing to the several states their situation, 
but hitherto without success, and unless some unforeseen event, 
turns up very speedily, it is impossible to say what may be the con- 
sequences. However, it is our business to hope all things: and that 
Providence, who has hitherto carried us through our difficulties, will, 
I trust, continue his protection." His solicitations to the governors 
of the states, whose defalcation absolutely rendered it impossible to 
relieve the necessities of the troops, were vehement and unceasing. 
On the third of October, 1781, after describing the low state of 
the treasury, he observes, in a letter to General Greene, "your cir- 
cumstances have long been arduous, but you have hitherto risen so 
superior to them, that we should be almost as much surprised now 
if you were not successful, as we formerly were at your successes. 
I wish I could contribute to render you more easy. As far as my 
abilities extend, I shall do it most cheerfully: but they, unfortunately, 
are very limited. Accept, I pray you, my good wishes, which are 
almost all I have to give." On the second of November, 1781, he 
uses the following language : " I hope it is unnecessary to make 
assurances of my disposition to render your situation both easy and 
respectable. I am sure it is unnecessary to remark, how inadequate 
the provisions have been, which the states have hitherto made: at 
least, it is unnecessary to you. Much less need I display the detail 
of expenditures which have been requisite for the accomplishment 
of that happy event which has taken place in Virginia. I have 
neither forgotten nor neglected your department. I have done the 
utmost to provide clothing, arms, accoutrements, medicines, hospital 
stores, &c. and I flatter myself you will derive, through the different 
departments, both benefit and relief from my exertions. / have 
detained Captain Pierce a day, in order to make up^ with infinite dif- 
ficulty, one thousand pounds, Pennsylvania currency, in gold, which he 
is the bearer of, and which will, I hope, be agreeable and useful. You 
have done so much with so little, that my wishes to increase yout 


activity have every possible stimulus. I hope soon to hear that you 
have gathered fresh laurels, and that you may wear them as long 
and as happily as they have been speedily and worthily acquired, is 
the earnest wish of, &c. tfcc." 

In his letter of the tenth of June, 1782, Mr. Morris forcibly 
describes the situation to which he is reduced ; a situation, struggling 
as he was in favour of his country against almost incredible diffi- 
culties, which entitles him to the warmest gratitude of the existing 
generation, and ought to have silenced the tongue of slander itself. 
"I can easily suppose that they (the army) are in want of money, 
because I well know that none has been sent for a long time past ; 
but I did hope and expect that you would have had a sufficiency of 
clothing ; and knowing, as I do, the expenditures which have been 
made for that purpose, I was both surprised and hurt to find your 
distresses so great, when I had flattered myself that they had, in 
this respect, been totally relieved. Your situation in that exhausted 
country, and the impossibility of sending you any aid from hence, 
while our coasts are infested so much by the enemy, will naturally 
account for those distresses which have arisen from the want or 
badness of food. I cannot conceive that even money would afford 
you any considerable relief, were it in my power to send you any, 
which it is not. I have long since taken measures to obtain salt, 
but whether they will be effectual God only knows. With respect 
to pay I have laid down a rule which I am determined not to break 
through : it is, never to be guilty of partial payments, on any account 
whatever. You may, therefore, rely that your army shall, in this 
respect, fare equally with the rest of our officers and soldiers. If 
the states will furnish me with money, most cheerfully will I dis- 
pense it to all who are entitled to receive it: but until they do, I 
must continue to be as I am, exposed to clamour from every quarter. 
I have hopes, but I have so often been disappointed, that I dare not 
cherish those hopes myself, nor convey them to, nor encourage 
them in, you. It is with the greatest truth I assure you that I am 
driven to the greatest shifts to find the smallest sums for the com- 
monest purposes. Rely on it, my dear sir, that I have hitherto, 
and shall continue to give you, all the support which my means will 
possibly admit of." On the eighteenth of June, 1782, in a commu- 
nication to a committee of congress, detailing the causes which pre- 
vented the supply of the southern army on contract, and which 
General Greene had been authorized to effect, if practicable, in 
Oecemb r, 1781, the financier remarks that he had already done 


every thing that his means would permit, to supply that army; and 
that, if he could command money, he would take care that they 
should be furnished with every thing necessary.* It may be observed, 
in exemplification of the expense and difficulty of procuring those 
supplies, that the cost of transporting flour alone was estimated at 
sixty pounds, Pennsylvania currency, per ton. — With respect to the 
bills drawn in 1783, by General Greene on Mr. Morris, the latter 
observes, in a letter of the sixteenth of May, " Before I close this 
letter, I must again repeat my solicitude on the score of your bills, 
which are coming in upon me so fast that the means of paying them 
must, I fear, be deficient;" and on the next day he advises him 
that it had been necessary to pay his draft for five hundred dollars 
out of his private fortune. The bills, however, at length so far 
exceeded the expectations of Mr. Morris, that he was unable to 
provide funds, and was consequently compelled, in August, 1783, 
to postpone their payment. 

The campaign of 1781, which proved decisive of the long and 
doubtful contest, encircled the name of Robert Morris with living 
laurels which will for ever flourish. In the capture of Cornwallis, the 
energy, perseverance, and financial talents of that great man, united 
with the wisdom and bravery of Washington in deciding the fate 
of the union. The plan of the campaign of 1781, as agreed upon 
by the commander-in-chief and the French authorities, was to aim 
at the reduction of New York, the stronghold of the British ; in 
this attack, the French army under Count Rochambeau, and the 
French fleets, under De Barras and De Grasse, were to co-operate. 
At that time, the American army lay at Phillipsburg on York island, 
waiting for the fleet under De Grasse, then momentarily expected 
from the West Indies. The southern enterprise was never contem- 
plated until unexpectedly, and to his extreme surprise, General 
Washington was compelled to change the whole plan of operations, 
because the French admiral, on his arrival, broke his engagement to 
come into the bay of New York, and announced his intention, through 
the admiral commanding the squadron at Rliode Island, to enter 
and remain, for a few weeks, in the Chesapeake. 

By a resolution of congress, of the thirty-first of July, 1781, Mr. 
Peters was directed, as a member of the board of war, to repair to 
head-quarters, with Mr. Morris, the superintendent of finance, in 

* About this time, notwithstanding the scarcity of funds, he hired Thomas Paine 
for a future compensation in money, or an office, to write in favour of such measures 
as he (Mr. M.) should convince him were for the benefit of the country. 


order to consult with the commander-in-chief on the subject of the 
arrangement and numbers of the army ; the main object being to 
establish the mode, and quantity of supplies required for the opera- 
tions of the campaign, which was known to them to be directed to 
the capture of New York. Mr. Morris and Mr. Peters immediately 
proceeded to camp, and arrived at head-quarters in the early part 
of August, where they had repeated conferences with the comman- 
der-in-chief on the subject of their mission, to which only a few con- 
fidential officers were admitted. The proposed attack on New York 
was almost the exclusive subject of discussion ; and the expectation 
of the arrival of the French fleet in the bay was a frequent theme 
of discourse. No doubt whatever existed as to the consummation of 
this event, on which the most perfect reliance was placed : but the 
apprehension expressed by Count De Grasse, of danger to his heavy 
ships, should they enter the New York bay, and the avowal of his 
intention to sail for the Chesapeake, put at once an end to delibera- 
tion on the subject. This breach of a positive engagement produced 
an agitation in the high-minded and honourable American chief, 
which those who witnessed it " can never forget." One morning, 
at the beating of the reveille, Mr. Morris and Mr. Peters were 
aroused from their slumbers by a message from head-quarters, re- 
questing their immediate attendance. Somewhat surprised at the 
circumstance, they complied without delay, and found General Wash- 
ington violently exclaiming against the breach of faith on the part 
of the French admiral, who had changed his destination, and in- 
formed him that he would proceed to Chesapeake bay, where he 
would co-operate in any plan formed for an enterprise in that quar- 
ter. After receiving this unwelcome communication, the commis- 
sioners returned to their tent, musing on the past scene, and lamenting 
the total subversion of the plan which they had been empowered to 
support. At the usual hour of breakfast, they returned to head- 
quarters, and found the general as calmly engaged in making out 
his notes of the supplies he should require, as if nothing extraordi- 
nary had happened : from the powerful resources of his mind, he 
had already planned, in a sudden and masterly manner, the course 
of his future operations. His first question was, "Well, what can 
you do for me under this unexpected disappointment ?" Mr. Peters 
replied, " Every thing with money, without it nothing," and looked 
anxiously towards the financier. " I understand you," said Mr. 
Morris, " but I must know the amount you require." Before the 
hour of dinner, Mr. Peters having examined the returns of the com- 
36 Y 2 


mander-in-chief, communicated the result. Mr. Morris, with Ins 
usual candour, informed the general that he had not any means 
whatever of furnishing the amount in money, but would be com- 
pelled to rely solely on his credit ; and that the commander-in-chief 
could decide whether he considered it prudent to depend upon that 
credit, the efficacy of which it would be necessary for him to risk. 
Washington instantly observed, " The measure is inevitable ; and, 
therefore, resolved on ; and I must pursue it at all hazards." The 
expedition against Cornwallis having thus been determined on, Mr. 
Morris and Mr. Peters set out for Philadelphia, under an escort, 
through the shortest and most dangerous route. They were strictly 
enjoined by General Washington to keep the whole affair a profound 
secret; and so faithfully was this injunction observed, that the first 
intelligence received by congress of the movement of the army, was 
derived from the march of the troops through Philadelphia, on the 
third of September. 

The necessary supplies of every thing required for this important 
and decisive enterprise were chiefly furnished by means of Mr. Mor- 
ris' credit, to an immense amount, and Mr. Peters superintended 
their provision and preparation. From seventy to eighty battering 
cannon, and one hundred pieces of field artillery, were completely 
fitted and furnished, with attirail and ammunition, although, on the 
return of the committee to Philadelphia, there was not a field-car- 
riage put together, and but a small quantity of fixed ammunition in 
the magazines : the train was progressively sent on in three or four 
weeks, to the great honour of the officers and men employed in that 
meritorious service. All this, together with the expense of provision 
for, and pay of the troops, was accomplished on the personal credit of 
Robert Morris, who issued his notes to the amount of one million 
four hundred thousand dollars, which were finally all paid. 
Assistance was afforded by Virginia and other states, from the merit 
of which we mean not to detract ; but, as there was no money in 
the chest of the war office, and the treasury of the United States 
was empty, the expedition never could have been operative and 
brought to a successful issue, had not, most fortunately, Mr. Morris' 
credit, superior exertions, and management, supplied the indispen- 
sable sinews of war, — the funds necessary to give effect to exertion. 
These facts are ascertained from Mr. Peters himself, within whose 
personal observation, or knowledge, they occurred. 

In addition to the immense exertions of the financier to effect 
this movement, General Washington obtained a loan of specie from 


the Count De Rochambeau. Mr. Morris managed this important 
negotiation, and made the proposition to the French minister, 
Luzern, who refused his assent in the most positive manner. But 
his persuasive talents, joined to the evident fact that the army would, 
without funds, be unable to move, and the opportune news of the 
arrival of De Grasse in the Chesapeake, finally prevailed. 

The situation in which Mr. Morris found himself placed at this 
period, would have appalled a less resolute and comprehensive mind. 
It was not official duty which prompted his determination to sup- 
port, at every hazard, the views of General Washington, because, 
with an empty treasury, and a vast load of debt, nothing could be 
reasonably demanded from him in that character. He acted as a 
patriot who had devoted himself to his country, and resolved, as a 
private individual, to effect an object upon which the liberties of 
that country depended, and which baffled the resources of United 
America. In the prosecution of this gigantic labour, he surmounted 
every obstacle which impeded his progress with a celerity and per- 
severance, as astonishing as they were successful. But his struggles 
were violent, and, at seasons, almost hopeless. " A very heavy de- 
mand," he says to General Schuyler, "was made upon me for the 
rapid movement: this demand was as urgent as it was great, and 
I was unable alike to resist or to answer it. By the greatest exer- 
tions, I have at length been able to comply with the general's views, 
but that compliance has exposed me, almost penniless, to answer 
engagements which cannot be violated." " I must struggle through 
these difficulties," he remarks, in a letter to Washington; " but the 
doing so requires that attention and time which ought to be bestowed 
on greater objects. Even the supplies of cattle for the main army, 
when purchased, were arrested on the road from want of funds to 
procure pasturage! The droves being placed in this situation in 
New Jersey, Mr. Morris thus addressed the governor of the state, 
relative to the means of moving them : " I know but two modes in 
which the object can be accomplished. The one is by the payment 
of money to the commissary for the purpose: but this, I fear, will 
not be in your power; I therefore only mention it as preferable to 
all others, if practicable. The other mode is, by granting warrants 
to impress pasturage." On the twentieth of September, 1781, he 
makes the ensuing observations to the president of Pennsylvania, 
which serve to convey some idea of the invaluable services, and dis- 
interested sacrifices of Robert Morris: "The late movements of 
the army have so entirely drained me of money, that I have been 


obliged to pledge my personal credit very deeply, in a variety of 
instances, besides borrowing money from my friends, and advancing, 
to promote the public service, every shilling of my own." In a com- 
munication to the minister of France, soliciting further aid from his 
government, the financier justly remarks, that "the important ope- 
rations now carrying on by his excellency General Washington, 
depend so materially on the performance of my engagements, that 
the most fatal consequences may ensue from any breach of them." 
It may, indeed, truly be said, that the success of the American arms 
depended wholly on Robert Morris, not as an officer of the Ameri- 
can states, but as a private American citizen. 

From the results which attended the official labours of Mr. Mor- 
ris, it is fully established, that the objects of internal administration, 
though less brilliant and glorious, are the first source, and the firm- 
est foundation, of warlike exploits. Having brought, by means of 
the Bank of North America, the capitals and credit of the stock- 
holders to the support of public credit, the financier resolved to pro- 
duce the same effect in his own name, and with his private credit. 
He accordingly threw into circulation, no small sum of obligations 
signed by himself, and payable at different terms, out of foreign 
subsidies, or even out of the revenues of the United States ; and 
these notes circulated as cash amongst the merchants and shopkeep- 
ers. Although, however, in the course of time, these obligations 
had amounted to upwards of five hundred and eighty-one thousand 
dollars, they never depreciated, except a little towards the end of 
the war; so great was the confidence of the public in the good faith 
and punctuality of the financier. Thus, at the very epoch in which 
the credit of the government was almost entirely annihilated, and 
its bills nearly without value, that of a single individual was stable 
and universal. 

To augment the difficulties experienced by the financier, the seve- 
ral states had persuaded themselves into the belief that their exer- 
tions were unequal, and each maintained the superiority of its own 
efforts. Each one claimed the merit of having done more than 
others, and each continued desirous of relaxing to an equality with 
the supposed deficiencies of its neighbours. Hence it followed, that 
they daily became more and more negligent, and a dangerous 
supineness pervaded the whole continent. Recommendations which, 
in the year 1775, would have roused all America to action, were 
suffered, in 1781, to lie neglected. Such was the inevitable conse- 
quence of this opinion-: the settlement of former accounts being 


considered as a thing forgotten, men naturally reasoned from them 
to those which were then present, — concluded that they would also 
drop into forgetfulncss, and considered every thing not furnished 
as so much saved. The legislatures would not call forth the re- 
sources of their respective constituents; the public operations lan- 
guished ; the necessity of purchasing on credit enhanced the expense ; 
the want of that credit compelled the use of force; the use of that 
force created offence; and the country was daily plunged more 
deeply in debt, and its revenue was more deeply anticipated. 

The low state of public credit, from the want of solid funds to 
support it, had induced the United States in congress, to call for an 
impost of five per cent, on all goods imported, and on all prizes 
and prize goods, to be granted for the payment of the principal and 
interest of the debts contracted, or which might be contracted during 
the war. Some of the states complied with this demand. The two 
most southern states were in such disorder, that a compliance from 
them could not be reasonably expected, nor was it relied on ; but 
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and 
North Carolina, delayed passing the necessary laws. On the seventh 
of July, 1781, an energetic appeal from the financier procured the 
compliance of the states of New York, Delaware, and North Caro- 
lina, and the accession of the others was confidently anticipated : 
this was of the last importance, as the impost could not be carried 
into effect without the concurrence of every state in the Union. 
Thus, instead of realizing funds from this source, the financier was 
compelled patiently to await the event. In the month of July, 1781, 
notwithstanding the pressing instances of Mr. Morris, very little hard 
money had been obtained from the states on the past requisitions 
of congress, and not more than one hundred thousand dollars during 
his whole administration. Some considerable specific supplies had, 
indeed, been drawn forth, and a large amount of paper money re- 
mained in his hands: from the former, the army had been princi- 
pally maintained; but the paper money was of no possible use, 
although, from motives of policy, it was necessary to receive it in 
payment of taxes. The confidence of the people was so entirely 
lost, that no bills of credit whatever could at that moment have 
been made use of as money. "If I could buy any thing with it," 
Mr. Morris remarks, " I would not, until the last necessity ; but it 
will buy nothing, so that it must be burnt as soon as it honestly 
can." In communicating this lamentable state of public affairs to 
Dr. Franklin, Mr. Morris makes the following observations: " The 


picture I have already given of this country will not be pleasing to 
you. Truth bids me add, that it will admit of a higher colouring. 
But what else could be expected from us? A revolution — a war. 
The dissolution of government — the creating of it anew. Cruelty, 
rapine, and devastation in the midst of our very bowels. These, 
sir, are circumstances by no means favourable to finance. The 
wonder then is, that we have done so much, that we have borne so 
much, and the candid will add, that we have dared so much." 

In the beginning of the year 1782, Mr. Morris appears to have 
felt more severely than at any other period, the weight of the bur- 
den which rested upon him, and beneath which he, for a moment, 
tottered. The states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Mary- 
land, had not yet passed laws for the impost of five per cent. ; and 
Virginia had lately suspended the operation of the act which they 
had enacted in relation to it. The public debt being unfunded and 
unprovided for, the interest could not be paid, and those who con- 
fided in the government in the hour of distress, were defrauded. 
To expect that, under such circumstances, others would confide in 
that government would have been folly ; and to expect that foreign- 
ers would trust a government which had no credit with its own 
citizens, would have been madness. The whole weight, therefore, 
of the war, was necessarily borne in the present moment; and even 
the sjightest anticipations of revenue were made on the personal 
credit of the financier. "I have laboured," Mr. Morris eloquently 
remarked, " to establish a credit for my country, that when the 
period should arrive, (and I hoped it was not far distant,) in which 
I would lay down the burden now pressing upon me, my successor 
in office should have no other difficulties to struggle with, than those 
which necessarily attend an extensive and complicated administra- 
tion. It is, therefore, with no common degree of anxiety and dis- 
tress, that I see my wishes frustrated. I feel as an American for 
my country; as a public servant, for the interest and honour of those 
whom I serve ; and as a man, that I cannot enjoy the ease and 
tranquillity I have sought for, through a life of continual care and 
unremitted labour. It is my duty to mention to you (congress) the 
fact, and to apprise you that, in such circumstances, our operations 
will continue to be the desultory efforts of individual power, rather 
than the combined exertion of political strength and firmness." 

At this juncture, too, the repeated assurances received almost 
daily from the French government, of its steady determination to 
grant no further pecuniary aids, left no room to doubt the firmness 


of its determination. This was, indeed, a severe disappointment 

to Mr. Morris, who had formed not only hopes, but even expecta- 
tions from that quarter. He believed that, when the brilliant suc- 
cesses of the last campaign should be known, and when it should 
also be known how much the United States were able to perform, 
and how necessary an aid of money was to call their power into 
action, the king of France would again have extended that relief 
which would be most beneficial to the common cause. Hopes of 
pecuniary aid from any other quarter were utterly delusive. It was 
in vain that expensive establishments were kept up to solicit succour 
from Spain, which appeared neither able nor willing to afford it; 
from Holland, which, as she was seeking a peace, could not wish to 
increase the causes of war; or from Russia, which seemed more in- 
clined to crush than to support our cause. " Let us apply to bor- 
row," said the financier, " wherever we may, our mouths will always 
be stopped by the one word — security. The states will not give 
revenue for the purpose, and the United States have nothing to 
give but a general national promise, of which their enemies loudly 
charge them with the violation." 

Goaded by the clamours of the public creditors, and uniformly 
disappointed by the inattention of the state authorities to his most 
pressing entreaties, Mr. Morris at length assumed a style in his 
communications, at once monitory, dignified, and solemn. On the 
first of September, 1781, he thus endeavours to awaken the fears 
of the governor of Delaware : " 1 have pressed upon you as urgently 
as I could, the necessity of a compliance with the requisitions : the 
moment is now arrived when that compliance must be insisted on. 
If the legislature have neglected to pass the proper laws, or if there 
has been any neglect in the execution of those they have passed, 
the persons who are in fault must be responsible for the consequences 
to their suffering fellow citizens. It is needless to say, that a body 
of soldiers will not starve in the midst of a plentiful country." 

Eleven months having elapsed after the recommendation of con- 
gress, imposing the impost of five per cent., and the states of Massa- 
chusetts, Rhode Island and Delaware not having complied with it, 
Mr. Morris, on the third of January, 1782, addressed a circular 
letter to those states, couched in a style of firm and dignified re- 
proof, which ought to have proved irresistible. In a letter to the 
speaker of the house of assembly of Pennsylvania, dated the thir- 
teenth of February, 1782, he gratefully acknowledges their zeai in 
the glorious cause, and their full and ready compliance with the 


requisitions of congress : " It would give me more pleasure," lie 
feelingly remarks, " that I can express, had this example been imi- 
tated by all. Had this been the case, new recommendations would 
long since have been made for other revenues, sufficient to fund all 
the public debts; and before the present moment, you, sir, might 
have had the inexpressible satisfaction of signing those laws which 
would have dried up the tears of many fatherless children, and re- 
moved from a thousand worthy bosoms, the heavy load of affliction." 
To the state of Virginia he wrote: "What, in the name of heaven, 
can be expected by the people of America, but absolute ruin, if they 
are so inattentive to the public service? Not until December will 
Virginia give any thing, you say, towards the service of the current 
year. How, then, are we to carry on those operations which are 
necessary? How is our country to be defended? How is our army 
to be supported? Is this what is meant by the solemn declaration to 
support with life and fortune the independence of the United States?" 
Such were the immense difficulties which embarrassed the opera 
tions of the financier, and against which he triumphantly struggled. 
In addition to the unjustifiable lukewarmness and torpor of the 
states, the little money which he could command was required in a 
thousand different ways. The private and just claims of individuals 
which he was incessantly called upon to satisfy, not unfrequently 
drove him almost to the verge of despair. He was fully sensible 
of the distresses which they endured from being in advance for the 
public service, but it was not in his power properly to defray the 
necessary expenses of the war, much less to pay off past debts. " As 
to making advances," he said, " from my own private fortune, I have, 
before my acceptance of the office I now hold, expended much more 
in that way than ought to have fallen to any private citizen." His 
reply to these numerous applications was generally uniform and 
conclusive: he lamented the necessity of refusal, set forth the plain 
fact that until the several legislatures levied taxes for the payment 
of past debts, it was impossible for him to discharge them; and 
declared that the only thing in his power was, to place the debts on 
interest, the punctual payment of which he was endeavouring to 
secure: hence, he said, if his exertions were crowned with success, 
the public creditors would find themselves speedily relieved, as the 
funded debt of the country would be sought after by monied men, 
whenever they found that permanent revenues were established to 
secure the principal and interest. But arguments of this nature 
were little calculated to satisfy claimants, the justice of Whose de- 


rnands was indisputable; and who, by reason of the governmental 
defalcation, were involved in embarrassments and distress. The 
payment of the principal of their claims was wholly impossible; and 
the security of it, together with the payment of the interest, entirely 
depended on the revenue arising from the impost law, which could 
not then be carried into effect, from the non-compliance of Rhode 
Island and Georgia to the relative recommendations of congress. 
The states of Massachusetts and Delaware had acceded to this 
measure, and Georgia had been so recently delivered from invasion, 
that the neglect there could only be imputed to the distracted state 
of the country. The obstinate refusal and objections of Rhode 
Island, however, continued in full force, and at length induced con- 
gress to adopt, on the tenth of October, 1782, a resolution, "that 
congress call upon the states of Rhode Island and Georgia for an 
immediate definitive answer, whether they will comply with the re- 
commendation of congress to vest them with power to levy a duty 
of five per centum on all goods imported, and on prizes and prize 

Still no relief came, and still the clamours of the creditors con- 
tinued to be directed to Mr. Morris, frequently accompanied with 
calumnies, invective, and even absolute insults, as shameful as they 
were unmerited. From these combined causes, the situation of his 
department, in the summer of 1782, was really deplorable. "I 
with difficulty am enabled," he remarks, in a letter to General Wash- 
ington, " to perform my engagements, and am absolutely precluded 
from forming new ones. I have, therefore, been under the very dis- 
agreeable necessity of suffering the public service to stand still in 
more lines than one. I have been driven to the greatest shifts, and 
am at this moment unable to provide for the civil list." 

At length, his other resources, when nearly exhausted, became use- 
less by the total stagnation of trade, owing to the expectations of peace. 
In spite of all his efforts he became in arrears ; " but," he remarks 
to Washington, on the ninth of September, 1782, "I am determined 
to continue my efforts to the last moment, although at present I 
really know not which way to turn myself." At length, weak and 
tottering as he was, the threatened storm burst over him; but his 
great mind repelled its fury, and triumphed over difficulties which 
might have driven the firmest to despair. At the close of Septem- 
ber, the contractors declared explicitly, that they could no longer be 
responsible for supplying the troops, on the terms agreed on in their 
contracts. They demanded from the financier, assurances of in- 
37 Z 


demnification at the close of the contract, for all damages sustained 
from the public inability to perform their engagements; and con- 
cluded with the cautionary declaration, that if they did not receive 
such assurances before the first of October, they would surrender 
their contracts. Mr. Morris, properly and decisively, refused to 
comply with these demands, because, from the moment those assu- 
rances were made, there would be no longer any restraint on the 
contractors. Negligence or profusion might have extended the 
damages to any amount, and his promise would have bound the 
public to abide by the pernicious consequences. The financier, 
consequently, from his comprehensive and wonderful resources, en- 
deavoured to make immediate arrangements to meet the threatened 
danger ; but such was the paucity of the returns from the states, 
that he was compelled to advise the proper authorities, that unless 
means could be devised to feed the army at a long credit, he must, 
himself, command the contractors to desist, and desire the comman- 
der-in-chief to subsist his troops by military collection. " I know 
well," he observed, "that the service must suffer ; but I also know 
that an early suffering is better than a late ruin." 

On the first of October, 1782, congress again required the several 
states to make speedy payment of their respective quotas into the 
public treasury, that they might be enabled thereby to pay the officers 
and soldiers of the army. In urging a compliance with this renewed 
requisition, Mr. Morris, incited by the sufferings of the troops, and 
indignant at the embarrassing and laborious situation in which he 
was himself placed, as the organ of the government, argued with 
unusual severity: " It is a mighty fashionable thing," he said, " to 
declaim on the virtue and sufferings of the army, and it is a very 
common thing for those very declaimers to evade, by one artifice or 
another, the payment of those taxes which alone can remove every 
source of complaint. Now, sir, it is a matter of perfect indifference 
by what subterfuge this evasion is effected, whether by voting against 
taxes, or, what is more usual, agreeing to thein in the first instance, 
but taking care, in the second, to provide no competent means to 
compel a collection ; which cunning device leaves the army at last, 
as a kind of pensionary upon the voluntary contributions of good 
whigs, and suffers those of a different complexion to skulk and screen 
themselves entirely from the weight and inconvenience." Truly, 
indeed, did Mr. Morris observe, " my credit has already been on 
the brink of ruin ; if that goes, all is gone." To illustrate this 
fact, it is only necessary to state, that in October, 1782, he was 


obliged to sell a portion of clothing, arrived for the use of the army, 
for the purpose of paying debts for needle-work, done by people in 
extreme indigence, amounting to twelve thousand dollars. 

The embarrassments in the department of finance now continued 
daily to increase. Notwithstanding his peculiar urbanity and mild- 
ness of disposition, it was not in human nature to endure unruffled, 
a continued series of impatient, persecuting, and pressing demands, 
not unfrcqnently mingled with petulance, and sometimes, even with 
personal insult. " If," he remarks in one of these momentary ex- 
citements, but with justice, "the public creditors and their fellow 
citizens, instead of uttering complaints on every occasion, would 
exert themselves in paying their own, and influencing their neigh- 
hours to pay their taxes for the continental service, I should soon 
hope to see our affairs on such a footing as to silence all complaints; 
but whilst people are grasping at every farthing the public possess, 
and no measures are taken to replenish the fountain from whence 
payments spring, what can they expect?" 

At length, worn down by excessive toil, harassed by incessant 
claims which he could not satisfy, and subjected to hopeless mortifi- 
cations and embarrassments from the defalcation of revenue, he 
resolved to abandon a situation in which he could be no longer use- 
ful, before his own honour and credit became entangled in the laby- 
rinth, into which state prejudices laboured to plunge the nation, and 
from which he had, till that period, successfully preserved it. On 
the twenty-fourth of January, 1783, he advised the president of 
congress, that as nothing but the public danger could have induced 
him to accept the office, so he had determined to hold it until the 
danger was past, or else meet his ruin in the common wreck; that 
under greater difficulties than were apprehended by the most timid, 
and with less support than was expected by the least sanguine, the 
generous confidence of the public had accomplished more than he 
had presumed to hope; that his attention to the public debts arose 
from the conviction that funding them on solid revenues, was the 
last essential work of our glorious revolution, the accomplishment 
of which was among the objects nearest his heart, and to effect 
which, he would continue to sacrifice time, property, and domestic 
comfort ; that many late circumstances had so far lessened the ap- 
prehensions from the common enemy, that his original motives had 
almost ceased to operate ; but that other circumstances had post- 
poned the establishment of public credit in such a manner, that he 
feared it would never be made; and that to increase the national 


debts while the prospect of paying them was diminishing, did not 
consist with his ideas of integrity. Hence, he announced his inten- 
tion to quit a station which had become utterly insupportable. But, 
lest the public measures might be deranged by any precipitation, he 
consented to serve until the end of May ; with the understanding 
that, if effectual measures were not taken by that time to make per- 
manent provision for the public debts of every kind, congress would 
be pleased to appoint some other person to be the superintendent 
of finance. "I should be unworthy," he said, "of the confidence 
reposed in me by my fellow citizens, if I did not explicitly declare, 
that I will never be the minister of injustice."* 

The letter to congress conveying this determination produced 
considerable agitation, as in case of Mr. Morris' resignation, no 
other individual could be found so capable of conducting the affairs 
of the department, whether it regarded his political sagacity, his 
financial knowledge, or private resources. An injunction of secrecy 
was immediately passed; but Mr. Morris, after two months' delay, 
addressed a letter to the house, stating that a number of those who 
had contracted engagements with him, placed a personal reliance 
on him for the fulfilment of them ; that as the time was fast ap- 
proaching when he must quit the office, it was proper for him to 
make the necessary preparations, and give this due and seasonable 
information, to those who had confided in him. He therefore prayed 
that the injunction of secrecy might be removed. On the twenty- 
sixth of February, this petition was granted, and a committee ap- 
pointed to which his letters were referred. On the fifth of March, 
this committee was superseded by another, consisting of five mem- 
bers, appointed to devise the proper measures to be taken, in con- 
sequence of the letters from the superintendent of finance. 

Nothing would have induced Mr. Morris to take this step, but a 
painful conviction that the situation of those to whom the public 

* This communication produced a strong sensation in congress : Mr. Lee anil 
Mr. Bland said that a man who had published to the world such a picture of our 
character, and the finances, was unfit to have charge of them. Colonel Hamilton (who 
was afterwards appointed Secretary of the Treasury, through Mr. Morris' influence) 
vindicated his conduct, and succeeded in getting from congress a vote of approval 
of his conduct. General Washington wrote to Colonel Hamilton, " Some of the of- 
ficers are beginning to entertain suspicions that congress are going to sell them as 
mere puppets to establish continental funds, and that rather- than not succeed in 
this measure, they will sacrifice the army and all its interests : the financier is sus- 
pected of being at the bottom of this scheme/' Colonel Hamilton in reply, vindi. 
cated Mr. Morris' conduct, and said, " The old leaven of Lee and Deane is at this 
time working against Mr. Morris." 


were indebted was desperate. In a letter to General Washington, 
dated the twenty-seventh of February, he says that he sincerely 
believed that a great majority of the members of congress wish to 
do justice, but would not adopt the necessary measures, because 
they were afraid of offending their states. He strongly sympathized 
with the army and the situation of its commander. "I did flatter 
myself," he observed, " that I should have been able to present 
them that justice to which they are entitled, and in the mean time, 
I laboured to make their situation as tolerable as circumstances 
would permit. My thanks are due to all our officers, for I know 
that unwearied pains have been taken to give them disagreeable 
impressions; and I am, therefore, doubly indebted for the just sen- 
timents which, amid so many misrepresentations, they have con- 
stantly entertained. I hope my successor will be more fortunate 
than I have been, and that our glorious revolution may be crowned 
with those acts of justice, without which the greatest human glory 
is but the shadow of a shade." To General Greene he remarked, 
that the step he was about to take was inconceivably painful to him, 
but that there was no alternative. While it was asserted on all 
hands that the national debts ought to be paid, it was evident that 
no efficient measures would be adopted for that purpose. "I felt," 
he said, " the consequences of my resignation on public credit ; I 
felt the probable derangement of our affairs; I felt the difficulties 
my successor would have to encounter ; but still I felt, above all 
things, that it was a duty to be honest. This first and highest 
principle has been obeyed. I do not hold myself answerable for 
consequences. These are to be attributed to the opposers of just 
measures, let their rank and station be what it may. I expect 
much obloquy for my conduct, because this is what I know to be 
the reward for any conduct whatever, which is right. To the slander 
I am indifferent, and still more indifferent about the attempts to 
question the services I have rendered." 

Among the accusations publicly preferred against Mr. Morris, 
was the destruction of that public credit, which, unsupported by him, 
would long before have been annihilated. Men totally ignorant of 
the state of affairs put on the conduct, which severe necessity com- 
pelled him to pursue, the most malicious misconstructiens, and 
affecting an intimate knowledge of things, charged him with the ruin 
of public credit, and interpreted the terms of his resignation into 
reflections upon congress. On the very day, however, on which he 
was publicly charged with these offences, despatches arrived from 


Europe conveying the intelligence that the credit of congress was 
at an end. 

After repeated conferences with a committee of congress, Mr. 
Morris was induced to continue in office, under the express stipula- 
tion, that his duties were to be limited to the particular object of 
fulfilling his existing engagements, and those which the necessity 
of affairs might compel him to form; and congress, relieved by 
this determination, resolved, on the second of May, 1783, that he 
should receive their firm support towards completing his engage- 

The spring of 1784 found the finances in a still more miserable 
condition. A large sum of bills drawn for account of the United 
States, on the credit of a loan in Holland, had been protested for 
non-acceptance, and the little show of credit that had been supported 
abroad was now totally gone. It was the deepest and sincerest 
wish of Mr. Morris, to have been the instrument towards establish- 
ing the affairs of America upon a solid basis, and almost every 
eftbrt within the scope of human power had been exerted, to effect 
that object. At such a crisis, he foresaw that without a miracle the 
country would be plunged into a state of inconceivable confusion 
and distress. At this period, unsupported and persecuted, he 
formed the intention of peremptorily resigning his station. "I 
think it necessary," he remarked to a friend, " for America that I 
should quit my office, even admitting the justice of those flattering 
expressions contained in your letter. I hope that persons will be 
found as honest and more capable; but be that as it may, the people 
will, I hope, more easily believe, when they hear truth from some 
other quarter. If not, they will, at least, feel the consequences 
which, though so often predicted, have not been provided against." 
On the twenty-fifth of March, he remarked, " my successors will 
perhaps be believed when they describe our situation, and at least 
that voice of party, which has hitherto opposed the public service 
on private principles, will be silenced." On the sixth of May, he 
requested congress to make eventual arrangements for administer- 
ing the finances, and to appoint a committee to inspect the conduct 
of the department. Congress accordingly appointed a board con- 
sisting of three commissioners to superintend the treasury of the 
United States, after a well merited eulogium on the very great ad- 
vantages derived from the arrangement and management of their 
finances. The appointment of the board of treasury was, in itself 
a flattering token of his powerful abilities, which had so long been 


able to support and conduct a department which no single man now 
seemed capable of performing. 

Sir. Morris, however, still continued to preside over the treasury, 
and make the final arrangements for his retirement. As the period 
appointed by congress, as the termination of his official labours, 
approached, he became extremely anxious to impress on the public 
mind the undoubted fulfilment of his engagements, and the unim- 
paired value of his notes. Accordingly, on the eleventh of October, 
he issued a public notice, declaring that he had taken measures to 
provide for the payment of his various engagements on behalf of 
the United States, and particularly for such of his notes as were in 
circulation, and that, although lie should not be in office, yet those 
notes would all be paid at maturity. For such payment he pledged 
himself personally to the holders, and therefore requested, that, if 
any attempts should be made to obtain them, by any suggestion, at 
less than the specified value, such attempts might be defeated. On 
the first day of November, 1784, Mr. Morris finally resigned his 
official duties, and, after an arduous administration, returned to the 
source from which it was derived the commission which he had so 
honourably and perseveringly borne. In rendering an account of 
his stewardship, he published an address to the inhabitants of the 
United States, which, together with the comprehensive details of his 
mode of managing the finances, ought to be incorporated in the 
course of the historical education of American youth. His con- 
cluding words were written in the true spirit of political foresight, 
and were only rendered nugatory by the establishment of the Federal 
Constitution. " The inhabitant of a little hamlet may feel pride in 
the sense of separate independence. But if there be not one 
government, which can draw forth and direct the efforts, the com- 
bined efforts of United America, our independence is but a name, 
our freedom a shadow, and our dignity a dream. To you, fellow 
citizens, these sentiments are addressed by one who has felt their 
force. In descending from that eminence on which your represen- 
tatives had placed him, he avoids the shafts which calumny had 
aimed. He has no longer, therefore, any personal interest in those 
jealousies and distrusts which have embarrassed his administration, 
and may prove your ruin. He no longer asks confidence in him- 
self. But it is his duty to declare his sincere opinion, that if you 
will not repose in the members of that general federal government 
which you yourselves have chosen, that confidence and those powers, 
which are necessary, you must, and you will, (in no very distant 


period,) become the dupes of European politics. What may be the 
final event, time only can discover; but the probability is, that, first 
divided, then governed, our children may lament, in chains, the 
folly of their fathers. May heaven avert these evils, and endue us 
with wisdom so to act, as may best promote the present and future 
peace, prosperity, and happiness, of our country." On the retire- 
ment of this eminent man from office, it was affirmed by two mem- 
bers of the Massachusetts delegation, " that it cost congress at the 
rate of eighteen millions per annum, hard dollars, to carry on the 
war, till he was appointed financier, and then it cost them but about 
four millions." 

In addition to the arduous duties already imposed on Mr. Morris 
congress resolved, on the seventh of September, 1781, that until an 
agent of marine should be appointed, all the duties, powers, and 
authority, assigned to that office, should devolve upon, and be exe- 
cuted by the superintendent of finance. This additional burthen 
was extremely disagreeable to Mr. Morris: " I could have wished," 
he observed, "that this task had fallen to the lot of some other per- 
son. I could have wished to bestow on this subject an attention 
undissipated by other cares. But it is now some time since I have 
learned to sacrifice to the public service, my case, my wishes, and 
my inclinations." No agent, however, being appointed, he contin- 
ued to perform the duties of this office, and regulate the affairs of 
our unfortunate navy, until the close of the year 1784. 

No individual, no public body, did more than Mr. Morris, to extri- 
cate the country from pecuniary embarrassments. But such exer- 
tions are not blazoned with the brilliant exploits of conquerors and 
heroes, which illuminate the annals of a country. It has been 
shown, however, that the operations of the machinery which guided 
the war of the revolution, would often have stood still, had not Mor- 
ris been principally instrumental in furnishing the moving power, 
after all preceding means had perished. It has been well written, 
that such important services rendered to this country, while they 
entitle Mr. Morris to universal admiration, should, at the same time, 
have secursJ him some distinguished testimony of public gratitude. 
As he richly merited, so ought he to have enjoyed, in old age, the 
uninterrupted blessings of peace and happiness. But at the con- 
clusion of the war, he was abandoned by those propitious fortunes 
which seemed attendant on all his prior enterprises. He had suc- 
cessfully husbanded the funds of the public, but vast and ruinous 
speculation totally prostrated his own pecuniary concerns. 


The assembly of Pennsylvania having, in 1785, annulled the char- 
ter of the Bank of North America, which, under the fostering care 
of Mr. Morris, had so largely contributed to the support of the war, 
it was resolved to send the most influential delegates from the city 
of Philadelphia, for the purpose, if practicable, of obtaining its 
renewal, and thereby relieve a great proportion of the stockholders, 
comprising a very helpless portion of our citizens, whose comfort- 
able support depended on the continuance of the institution. For 
this express purpose, Mr. Morris, ever ready to devote himself to 
the public good, consented, in 1780, to become a candidate, in con- 
junction with Mr. Fitzsimmons and Mr. Clymer. The real cause 
of the measure which had been adopted by the preceding legisla- 
ture, was ascribed to the continuance of the same party spirit which 
had been so violently opposed to Mr. Morris and his friends, during 
nis financial administration. The debates on the occasion excited 
great interest among all classes of society. The argumentative 
force and eloquence of Mr. Morris would have produced conviction 
in the mind of any man, not previously determined, if possible, to 
destroy the bank, and not abandoned to the government of party 
prejudice. The question to renew the charter was lost by a majority 
of thirteen; but the exertions of the friends of the institution were, 
in the succeeding legislature, crowned with success. 

In the following year, Mr. Morris was elected a member of the 
memorable convention which framed the Federal Constitution; — a 
convention constituting a body of political learning and virtue, from 
which alone could have emanated the never-dying document, that is 
destined to preserve and perpetuate the prosperity of the country.* 

On the first of October, 1788, Mr. Morris received a renewed 
mark of the high confidence which he continued to enjoy among his 
fellow citizens: he was appointed, by the general assembly, to re- 
present the state of Pennsylvania in the first senate of the United 
States, that assembled at New York, after the ratification of the 
federal compact. 

Although Mr. Morris received no other than a common English 
education, he possessed superior talents, which fostered by care, and 
ripened by experience, compensated this early defect, and rendered 
their possessor as conspicuous in the common intercourse of society, 

* Mr. Monis seems to have been in favour of a much stronger form of govern- 
ment than was adopted. He moved in the convention, that the senators should be 
appointed for life, and was in favour of all offices being more permanent than they 
were made by the convention. 



as he was in the cabinet. His conversation was cheerful, easy, and 
interesting; but not often of a literary cast, owing to the want of 
a classical education. He was, however, by no means deficient in 
general reading. With a mind at once acute and penetrating, he 
was extremely well versed in what are called the affairs of the world, 
both public and private. His political knowledge was very exten- 
sive, and it was almost all gained from practical sources, and social 
intercourse. His public speaking was fluent, correct, and impres- 
sive. He was not a frequent, and was, therefore, a more welcome 
speaker; being always listened to with profound attention. Mr. Mor- 
ris wrote with ease and perspicuity, both in business and friendly 
correspondence, and his familiar notes and letters were frequently 
pleasant and amusing. 

As a merchant, his enterprise and credit were equalled only by 
his unimpeachable integrity. It has been stated, that Mr. Morris 
enriched himself greatly by the war, and possessed a great variety 
of means for acquiring wealth ; that his connections with Mr. Holker, 
then consul-general of France at Philadelphia, and the exclusive 
permission to ship cargoes of flour and other produce in the time of 
general embargoes, were to him the sources of immense profit; and 
that his situation gave him many similar opportunities, of which his 
capital, his credit, and abilities, always enabled him to take advan- 
tage. " What purchases of tobacco," writes M. De Chastellux, 
"what profits of every kind, might not a man of Mr. Morris' abili- 
ties make, with such powerful advantages?" All these vile insinua- 
tions are totally false. Mr. Morris never engaged in speculation 
during his continuance in office; he never enjoyed any commercial 
monopoly or privileges on his own account, although, as it has been 
already shown, he incurred the odium by covering the operations of 
congress; and, so far from enriching himself by the advantages of 
his station, it was in that station where the seeds of his pecuniary 
destruction were sown. It not only actually impoverished him at 
the moment, but the vastness of his money transactions, and the 
almost boundless scope of his financial duties, gave to his mind a 
correspondent tone, which, no doubt, mainly concurred in leading 
him from the proper pursuits of commerce into a train of enor- 
mous, unmanageable, and ruinous land speculations. 

At the conclusion of the war, he was among the first who en- 
gaged in the East India and China trade, which by an increase, as 
astonishing as it is unexampled, has now become a lucrative branch 
of revenue and commerce. In the spring of 1784, he despatched 


to China, the ship Empress, Captain Green, from New York to Can- 
ton, being the first American vessel that ever appeared in that port. 
He also made the first attempt to effect what is called an " out of 
season" passage to China: by going round the south cape of New 
Holland, thus avoiding the periodical winds prevalent at certain 
periods in the China sea. 

Although active in the acquisition of wealth as a merchant, no 
one more freely parted with his gain, for public or private purposes 
of a meritorious nature, whether to support the credit of the go- 
vernment, to promote objects of humanity, or local improvement, 
the welfare of meritorious individuals in society, or a faithful com- 
mercial servant. The prime of his life was engaged in discharging 
the most important civil trusts to his country, that could possibly 
fall to the lot of man ; and millions passed through his hands, with- 
out the smallest tenable insinuation against his correctness, amidst 
"defaulters of unaccounted thousands." 

Notwithstanding his numerous engagements, as a public and 
private character, Mr. Morris eminently fulfilled all those private 
duties necessarily imposed upon him by his high standing in society. 
His house was the seat of elegant and unostentatious hospitality, and 
open, for nearly half a century, to all the strangers, in good society, 
who visited Philadelphia, either on commercial, public, or private 
affairs : it may not be exaggeration to assert, that during a certain 
period, it principally depended on him to do the honours of the city. 
This hospitality was conspicuous and cordial, without the slightest 
tinge of ostentation. His entertainments, when in prosperity, were 
always elegant and often splendid, and his capacity to preside over, 
and give a zest to the pleasures of the table, was remarkable. He 
possessed a peculiar facility in running off appropriate volunteer 
sentiments, at convivial meetings, which always embraced point 
and applicability; but he had no faculty for the sudden scintillations 
of wit. His habits were temperate, and he never suffered convivi- 
ality to interfere with the transaction of business. He is said to 
have been the first individual who introduced the luxuries of hot- 
houses and ice-houses into the United States. 

He was remarkable for his domestic habits ; and in his intercourse 
with his family and friends, and indeed with general society, no one 
made greater exertions to do kind offices. His great cheerfulness 
and benevolence attracted the esteem of a numerous circle of ac 
quaintance, and the veneration of the people. Independent in his 
principles and conduct, he never courted the countenance of living 


man. Warmly devoted to his friends, he was almost idolized by them, 
but especially by those who were particularly dear to him — Alexander 
Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris. Whenever Washington came 
to Philadelphia, his first visit was to Robert Morris, now surrounded 
by the chains which he had assisted the hero to burst asunder. 

In all his misfortunes, he did not utter a complaint, notwithstand- 
ing the ingratitude of his contemporaries. He was, however, com- 
pelled to refrain from walking the streets, being continually followed 
by a grateful crowd, consisting of the middle and lower classes of 
the people. 

His unfortunate scheme of land speculations, which embittered an 
old age that ought to have been surrounded with all the ease and 
happiness that earthly gratitude could bestow, was a frenzy which 
totally transformed his character. The mania of engrossing lands, 
under the fanciful idea that Europe would pour out its numbers and 
treasures into our wilderness, was not confined to him ; although it 
proved more fatal to him than to others.* 

Fatigued with the political cares, which, from the time of his 
election to congress under the federal constitution, had so completely 
engrossed his mind, he was now anxious to retire to the relaxation 
of private life. His refusal to accept the situation of secretary of 
the treasury, offered to him by Washington, proves how little his 
patriotism was tinctured with ambition. Being requested to desig- 
nate a gentleman for that office, he named Colonel Hamilton. Gen- 
eral Washington expressed considerable surprise at this selection, 
not being aware of the relative qualifications of Mr. Hamilton; but 
Mr. Morris declaring his own personal knowledge of his entire com- 
petency, he was appointed to that important post, and realized, in 
the fullest and most distinguished manner, the expectations of his 

* It was probably a passion, common to merchants, for amassing wealth, and a 
habit of engaging in extensive speculations acquired by wielding, at will, the reve- 
nues of a nation, more than a passion for engrossing acres, which led him on his 
mad career of extravagance. He had, some time previous to this, through the 
agency of General Washington purchased from the Six Nations of Indians, a do- 
main on the Genesee River, which would have sufficed for twenty German princes, 
and commenced the erection of a palace in Philadelphia, which would have re- 
quired more than the revenue of the United States to complete, furnish, and oc- 
cupy ; and would, when finished, have compared with the palaces of the Venitian 
merchant princes, as a supurb mansion to a log cabin; — and all this at the same 
time that he was selling as great an amount of his notes, as could in any way be 
disposed of at twenty cents in the dollar, or less when that could not be obtained. 
It all ended, as was inevitable, in the utter ruin of more than his fortune. 


Mr. Morris was a large man, and very simple in his manners, 
which were gentlemanly, though not highly polished, but free from 
the least tincture of vulgarity. He possessed a fine, open, and be- 
nevolent countenance, but his features were strong, and when en- 
gaged in deep meditation, they appeared austere, but not morose. 
Under misfortunes of the greatest magnitude, and in times of the 
severest trials, he never suffered the slightest tinge of melancholy 
to overshadow his countenance : the features of few individuals, 
among whom was General Washington, were more conspicuously 
brightened when lightened up by pleasantry ; but misfortune or suc- 
cess had little agency in the change. 

On the second of March, 1769, he was married to Miss Mary 
White, sister of Bishop White, a lady of exemplary constancy and 
virtue, and to whom he was most affectionately attached. He was, 
for a long time, deplorably and frequently afflicted with a constitu- 
tional asthma. The formation of his chest indicated a strong ten- 
dency to this terrifying malady. Exercise at the pump was the 
specific which he resorted to, and he often laboured as though he 
were assisting to save a sinking vessel. He, however, by this means, 
frequently obtained relief from violent paroxysms in a few moments. 

At length, worn down by public labour, and private misfortunes, 
he rapidly approached the mansion appointed for all living ; the 
lamp of life glimmered in its socket ; and that great and good man 
sunk into the tomb, on the eighth of May, 1806, in the seventy-third 
year of his age. 



Benjamin Rush was born in the township of Byberry, about 
twelve miles to the north-east of Philadelphia, on the twenty-fourth 
of December, 1745. Having lost his father at six years of age, the 
care of his education and that of a younger brother devolved solely 
upon his excellent mother, whose vigilance and activity appear to 
have amply compensated his early deprivation, or to have left at 
least no reason of interest to deplore it. 

The first care of the widowed mother of young Rush was to pro- 
cure him the means of a liberal education; to which the limited 
resources of their farm being inadequate, she removed to the city 
of Philadelphia, and there entering into some commercial business, 
was enabled, by prudent management and rigid economy, to suc- 
ceed in her generous undertaking. Having taught him herself the 
elements of the English language, she sent him at the age of nine 
years to the grammar school of Nottingham, in Maryland, at that 
time under the direction of her sister's husband, the Rev. Dr. Find- 
ley, afterwards president of the college of Princeton in New Jersey. 

Having finished his preparatory course of the dead languages, 
he was removed, at the age of fourteen, to Princeton College, then 
under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Davies, much lauded in his days 
for great piety and masterly eloquence. He completed his colle- 
giate studies in this seminary, in the month of September, 1766, 
and received a degree of Bachelor of Arts, at about sixteen years 
of age. 

In 1766, having passed through the elementary grades of medicine 
with such opportunities as his country afforded him, and aspiring to 
still greater advantages, he went to Edinburgh, at that time the 
most noted medical school of Europe, where, after two years' atten- 
dance upon the public lectures and hospitals, he obtained the degree 
of Doctor of Medicine. On this occasion his thesis, de codione cibo- 
rum in ventriculo, according to the usage of the place, was presented 
and defended in the Latin language. The experiments made by 


attKstrme of his deaxh. 
V 9& SouKh-t" 1 Street Phjlada 


hini, in proof of his arguments, were extremely bold and adven- 
turous. His reasoning itself displayed abilities, rare even among 
the pupils of that celebrated school. The style was correct and 
elegant ; Dr. Ramsay, who was among the best classical scholars 
of our country, and who knew Dr. Rush well, says of this thesis, 
that it was "written in classical Latin;" and adds, "I have reason 
to believe without the help of a grinder, for it bears the character- 
istic marks of the peculiar style of its author." 

During his residence at Edinburgh, Dr. Rush was commissioned 
to negotiate with Dr. Witherspoon of Paisley, in Scotland, his ac- 
ceptance of the presidency of Princeton College : he had declined 
tliis office, to which he had been appointed by the trustees, and it 
is in some degree to the address of Dr. Rush, that the accomplish- 
ment of this event is ascribed; an event which procured him an 
invaluable friend throughout life, conferred honour upon the semi- 
nary to which he owed his instruction, and contributed in no small 
degree to the advancement of the literature and science of our 

From Edinburgh Dr. Rush visited London, where he passed the 
winter of 1768, in attendance upon the hospitals and medical lec- 
tures of that metropolis. The succeeding summer he spent with 
great advantage in Paris, and returned in the autumn of 17G9 to 
his native country. 

Thus qualified, he fixed his residence in the city of Philadelphia, 
and entered upon the career of his profession; in which he had to 
encounter, at the outset, a competition with physicians of a long 
established reputation. By the affability of his manners, he was 
soon considered in Philadelphia as the ornament and delight of all 
the companies he frequented, and was regarded with extreme par- 
tiality and admiration; all which contributed greatly to his profes- 
sional reputation and success. But that which is said more espe- 
cially to have influenced the public opinion in his favour, was the 
affectionate and disinterested zeal, which, on all occasions, he mani- 
fested for the welfare of his patients; cheering their spirits with 
sprightly conversation; or soothing their apprehensions; and visit- 
ing, with indiscriminate attention, the palace of opulence and the 
hut of poverty. But notwithstanding this gentleness of manner, 
Dr. Rush was not the less distinguished for boldness and intrepidity 
of experiment. "His mildness to his patients," says one of his 
biographers, "was in no case extended to the diseases he had to 
combat. To these he was stern, inexorable, and deadly." 


The prosperous course of Dr. Rush's practice was not interrupted 
by any memorable event, nor diversified by any adventure very 
worthy of relation, until the breaking out of the yellow fever in 
Philadelphia in 1793, which exhibits the most busy scene of his 
professional life, and one in which he acquired his most conspicuous 
reputation. This disease had appeared in Philadelphia in 1762, 
and now returned after a lapse of thirty-one years, with unexampled 
malignity. War and famine have seldom presented a scene of 
more complicated horror. The city presented every where the 
image of desolation. For nearly two months, scarcely an individual 
was seen upon the streets, unless engaged in some melancholy 
office; seeking aid for the sick, or conducting the dead to their 
place of interment; and no other sound but that of the hearse, or 
the vehicle of the ph} r sician, interrupted the frightful solitude. In 
a populous city, where men are accustomed to witness the bustle 
of multitudes and the activities of business, the absence of such 
objects necessarily fills the mind with the most painful or melan- 
choly sensations. 

The magnanimous conduct of Dr. Rush in this emergency, his 
devotion to his profession, and total disregard of personal safety, 
have entitled him to the unceasing gratitude and admiration of his 
countrymen. To use the words of the celebrated Zimmerman, 
" sa conduife a merite que non seulement la ville de Philadclphie, 
mais que l'humanite entiere lui eleve une statue." 

During the fiercest rage of the disease, nearly all the physicians 
disappeared from the city; either having sought safety by flight into 
the country, or having perished in the indiscriminate mortality. At 
one time, when not less than six thousand persons were prostrate 
in the disease, three practitioners only remained to supply their 
necessities. The labours of Rush, in this emergency, were without 
remission, and he certainly accomplished difficulties, and sustained 
fatigues, to which the powers of life, under ordinary excitement, or 
with ordinary courage, had proved wholly inadequate. From the 
eighth to the fifteenth of September, he visited and prescribed for 
about one hundred and twenty patients per day. For several weeks 
his house, at all hours of the day and night, was filled, and some- 
times surrounded, by multitudes imploring his assistance. To these 
he prescribed during the intervals of his visits, using the help of 
three of his pupils, who resided for this purpose in his family; em- 
ploying them either in putting up medicine, in bleeding, or in visit- 
ing the sick. But although he devoted even the hurried periods of 


his meals to such offices, he was unahlc to supply the numerous 
applications that were made to him, and great numbers were obliged 
every day to retire, without the benefit of his advice or prescriptions ; 
in which unhappy predicament he was obliged often to turn a deaf 
ear to the most, pathetic entreaties, urged with all the zeal of friend- 
ship, of conjugal, filial, or parental affection; and even when riding 
through the streets, to drive with such speed as might secure him 
from interruption, or place him beyond the cries of his wretched 
petitioners. If, indeed, Dr. Rush had not been influenced at this 
season by motives more exalted than those that are mercenary, it 
would not be easy to say what sums he might not have amassed. 
Numerous were the instances in which profuse offers were made to 
him, and their acceptance almost implored, for his professional 
assistance. A wealthy citizen tendered him a deed for one of the 
best houses in Market street, if he would attend his son who was 
lying ill. A captain of a vessel once took from his pocket twenty 
pounds, offering them to him if he would pay his wife a single visit. 
A patient whom he had cured, directed, in his first feelings of gra- 
titude, his desk to be opened, in which large sums were heaped, 
requesting that he would take a part, or, if he chose, the whole, as 
his compensation. These are but a few of many similar instances. 
It need scarcely be added, from the well-known character of Dr. 
Rush, that, in every such instance, when it was in his power to attend 
the patient, he would only receive his regular professional charge. 

By unremitted labours for the relief of others, his own health 
was at one time overpowered, and his life for a while despaired of; 
he was, however, by the timely application of remedies, restored; 
and, with his usual assiduity, he returned to his practice. On this 
occasion he was urged by his friends to leave the city, and no longer 
place his safety in such imminent hazard. To their solicitations 
and urgent importunities, he replied, "that he would not abandon 
the post which Providence had assigned him; that he thought it his 
duty to sacrifice not only his pleasures and repose, but his life, 
should it he necessary, for the safety of his patients." 

The methods he employed, though attended by the most manifest 
evidence of their utility, were much disapproved and questioned by 
many of his contemporaries. Besides prescribing larger doses than 
usual of calomel, he recommended and followed bleeding in a great 
variety of cases, in which this remedy, by other physicians, was not 
accredited; and although the quantity of blood taken was not with- 
out precedent, and was obviously required, from the excessively 
39 2 a 2 


liig-h inflammatory fever which attended the first attack ot' the dis- 
ease, it exceeded, in various instances, the received opinions relating 
to it, and thus encouraged prejudices against him, and gave easy 
circulation to the slanders of his enemies. Most of the physicians, 
and at length nearly the whole community, were enlisted in the 
quarrel. The public journals were converted into vehicles of abuse, 
and pamphlets were written against him, in a style remarkable for 
malice and scurrility. In these writings, he was even stigmatized 
as a murderer; and at one time was threatened with prosecution 
and expulsion from the city. Such a temporary sacrifice of repu- 
tation has been the lot of many eminent medical reformers; Dr. 
Rush himself remarks that Dr. Harvey lost all his business, after 
he published his account of the circulation of the blood, and Dr. 
Sydenham was thrown into the back-ground of his profession, after 
he introduced depleting medicines and cool air in the cure of in- 
flammatory fevers. This ingratitude of the public to medical men 
is also feelingly noticed by him in one of his admirable introductory 
lectures, in reference to the circumstance of a motion at a public 
meeting in Philadelphia, in December 1793, to thank the physicians 
of the city for their services, in common with the board of health, 
during the fever of that year, not having been seconded, although 
their patients were chiefly poor people, and although eight out of 
thirty-five physicians who remained in the city, died, and of the 
survivors but three escaped the fever. 

The enemies of Rush succeeded for some years in injuring his 
professional reputation, and in circumscribing his extensive practice. 
But it is the advantage of true merit to suffer but temporary ob- 
scuration. The traces of their enmity are now invisible, whilst the 
honour of his profession and glory of his country are associated 
with the name of Rush. The experience of the present day has 
sufficiently proved, that his deviation from established rules was not 
founded upon any levity of determination, or presumptuous confi- 
dence in his abilities; for even those who were loudest in their 
censure of his practice have, at last, united in the general strain 
of approbation. 

As a teacher of medicine, Dr. Rush has acquired not less dis- 
tinction than as a practitioner. The various duties that he fulfilled 
in this capacity excited his mind to research, while they diffused his 
name and principles extensively throughout the country. His pri- 
vate pupils were very numerous, from the commencement of his 
practice. In the nine last years they amounted to fifty. His pupils 


in class, during the first seasons of his public lectures, varied from 
sixteen to thirty. From 1789, they increased rapidly, and in 1812, 
amounted to four hundred and thirty. It is estimated that during 
his life, he had given instruction to more than two thousand pupils, 
who propagated his principles and practice of medicine throughout 
the whole of the United States, and in sonic instances to South 
America, the West Indies and Europe. His degrees of appoint- 
ment, as appears from the journals of the university, were as follows : 

In 1769, he was chosen professor of chemistry in the college of 

In 1789, he succeeded, in the same institution, to the chair of the 
theory and practice of medicine, vacated by the death of Dr. John 

In 1791, the college having been elevated to the University of 
Pennsylvania, he was elected, in this latter establishment, professor 
of the institutes of medicine and of clinical practice. 

In 1796, he received the additional professorship, on the resigna- 
tion of Dr. Kuhn, of the practice of physic, which he held with the 
two preceding appointments, though they required much laborious 
application, until the close of his life. Besides these various duties, 
he was for many years one of the physicians of the Pennsylvania 
hospital, and contributed very essentially to the interest of that in- 
stitution, by the various improvements which he suggested in the 
management of its economy. 

The style and manner in which he conveyed his public lectures 
have been greatly admired ; and those who have had the best op- 
portunities to judge, do not hesitate to rank him as one of the most 
popular lecturers of his age. 

To his fame as a practitioner and teacher of medicine, Dr. Rush 
has added the no less glorious distinction of a good writer. His 
printed works are comprised in seven volumes, and, with the excep- 
tion of one containing miscellaneous essays on philosophy, morals, 
and literature, are wholly employed upon subjects of medicine. 
Upon these volumes we do not feel our competence to speculate : 
they are said, by those who are conversant in the kind of learning 
of which they treat, to be of incalculable value for general informa- 
tion, and especially for the particular knowledge which they convey 
of our climate and its peculiar diseases, which is not to be found in 
books imported from foreign countries. His style of writing is al- 
ways attractive, and bears every where the impression of his genius. 
" It is matter of wonder," says Dr. Ramsey, "how a physician who 


had so many patients to attend, a professor who had so many pupils 
to instruct, could find leisure to write so much, and at the same 
time so well." As a writer his biographers mention this peculiarity, 
that in composing he never sought retirement or silence, but wrote, 
on the contrary, with greater spirit amidst the company of his friends, 
and the clamorous merriment of his children. 

The political character of Dr. Rush, was, in the estimation of his 
contemporaries, highly respectable. He was united in sentiments 
and affections with nearly all the distinguished patriots of the revo- 
lution. He mixed in the most important councils of the nation, and 
his talents as a writer were also faithfully employed in the acquisition 
of our liberty. He not only wrote himself, but inspired other men 
of talents, who enjoyed more leisure than himself, with the same 
spirit. He was amongst the first acquaintances of Thomas Paine 
in the United States; he instigated, planned, and assisted the first 
compositions of that well-known writer, which contributed so pow- 
erfully to rouse the opposition to England, and to support the spirit 
of the nation in times of great despondency and misfortune. In 
conjunction with John Adams, he persuaded Paine to undertake to 
write in defence of the American cause, and suggested the title which 
his first paper bore, viz. Common Sense. He was chosen in July, 
1776, a representative to the general congress, and subscribed his 
name to the Declaration of Independence, which had been ratified 
some time previous to his appointment. Independence was the fa- 
vourite theme upon which, during the whole war, he dedicated all 
his faculties, and from the extent of his influence, we cannot esti- 
mate at a low rate his instrumentality in the accomplishment of that 
glorious and splendid enterprise. 

In 1777, he was appointed, for the middle department, physician 
general of the military hospitals, and in 1787, a member of the con- 
vention of Pennsylvania for the adoption of the federal constitution, 
a measure which he warmly advocated, as the only means to cement 
the union, to give stability and energy to the government, and to 
secure respectability abroad, and prosperity at home. With the 
view of aiding this most important cause, his labours were incessant. 

To the government of his own state he was not less attentive. 
He had always been opposed to the constitution formed in the year 
1776, on the principle of a single legislative body ;~and had written 
much against it, and in favour of a new one. After the convention 
which formed the federal constitution had adjourned, and published 
their plan, he again exerted himself on the subject, and had frequent 


meetings at his house with members of tlse legislature, to fix the 
outlines of a new form of state government. 

After the establishment of the federal government, he withdrew 
himself altogether from public life, and devoted the residue of his 
time to his social duties and the exercise of his profession. The 
' only office he accepted, as a reward for his many services, and which 
he held for fourteen years, was that of treasurer of the United States 
mint; a charge which added something to his revenues, without in 
terfcring in any way with his professional occupations. 

As a private citizen, he encouraged many useful institutions, and 
held many places of honour and confidence. He was president of 
the society for the abolition of slavery, a feature in our institutions 
which he had regretted deeply from his earliest years, and to which 
he remained inflexibly opposed, until the day of his death; he had 
indeed published an essay relative to it, in a volume as early as 
1774. He was president for some time of the Philadelphia Medical 
Society ; he was also vice president and one of the founders of the 
Philadelphia Bible Society, the constitution of which he draughted ; 
he was one of the vice presidents of the American Philosophical So- 
ciety, and was a member of many other literary institutions both in 
this country and Europe. 

He took a warm interest in the establishment of the Philadelphia 
Dispensary, in 1786, and served for many years as one of the phy- 
sicians of that institution, the good example of which was speedily 
imitated in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Charleston, and other 
cities. He was a principal agent in founding Dickenson College at 
Carlisle, and was chiefly instrumental in bringing from Scotland 
Dr. Nesbit, who for several years presided over that institution. In 
order to give a general diffusion of knowledge throughout the country, 
he advocated also the establishment of free schools. On this sub- 
ject he wrote several very sensible and eloquent essays, pointing 
out, at the same time, the objects which ought to enter into a system 
of general instruction adapted to the situation of our country, and 
our republican government. He felt a very deep concern in the dimu- 
nition of capital punishments, and as early as the year 1774, had 
called the attention of the public to the subject. 

His inquiry into the effect of ardent spirits upon the body and 
mind, is written with great fervency and exuberance of genius, and 
is supposed to have contributed not a little to diminish the vice of 
drunkenness, one which, by ruining health, poisons existence, and 
which has sometimes brought the most hopeful virtues and noblest 


faculties to ridicule and dishonour. His essay on this subject he 
published, that it might be universally read, in the form of a pamphlet, 
and distributed it gratuitously among the people, through the medium 
of the clergy and religious assemblies. Except Dr. Franklin's "Way 
to Wealth," probably no small publication ever had a more exten- 
sive circulation, or did more good. He also wrote at the same time 
against tobacco, and has exhibited a frightful catalogue of the evils 
arising from the intemperate use of that stimulus. His essay " On 
the Influence of physical Causes on the moral Faculty," has been 
universally admired as one of the most profound productions of 
modern times. He afterwards made the "influence of physical 
causes in promoting an increase of the strength and activity of the 
intellectual faculties of man," the subject of an introductory lecture 
to his medical course in the year 1799. 

The last work of Dr. Rush was " Medical Inquiries, and Obser- 
vations upon the Diseases of the Mind," which he published the 
year before his death. He often said, that he bestowed more labour 
on this work, than on any he had ever composed. He has embodied 
in it the result of all his observations and reflections on the consti- 
tution and diseases of the mental faculties, made during a long 
course of practice, particularly in the Pennsylvania Hospital; and 
of his study of various authors who had treated on that interesting 
subject. It has been pronounced by very respectable authority, 
"at once a metaphysical treatise on human understanding; a phy- 
siological theory of organic and thinking life ; a code of pure morals 
and religion ; a book of the best maxims to promote wisdom and 
happiness; in fine, a collection of classical, polite, poetical, and 
sound literature." 

In all the periods of life, he was remarkable for his attention to 
religious duties, and his reverence for the Holy Scriptures. He 
urges, in all his writings, the excellency of the Christian faith, and 
its happy influence upon the social habits of the country. To his 
students he especially recommends it as one of the concomitant 
excellencies and subsidiary accomplishments of the profession. He 
received during his life, besides the general esteem of his country- 
men, several peculiar marks of public favour. In the year 1793, 
the Board of Health of Philadelphia presented him with a large 
piece of plate, with an appropriate inscription, for his gratuitous 
service to the poor, during the epidemic fever of that year. In the 
year 1805, he received from the king of Prussia, a coronation 
medal, for his replies to queries on the yellow fever. In 1807, the 


queen of Etruria also presented him with a gold medal, for a paper 
on the same subject, written at her request; and in 1811, he re- 
ceived a diamond ring- from the emperor of Russia, in testimony of 
the respect in which that potentate held his medical character. 

The useful life of Dr. Rush, whilst yet capable of much good to 
mankind, was terminated on the nineteenth of April, 1813, in the 
sixty-eighth year of his age. He had yet experienced no diminu- 
tion of mental faculties, and but few physical infirmities. He died 
of an epidemic, which prevailed at that time in Philadelphia, termed 
typhus or spotted fever, after a few days' sickness. 

In exterior, Dr. Rush was favoured by nature with many advan- 
tages. He was above the middle size, of a slender but well pro- 
portioned figure, and his general deportment commanded respect 
and deference. Those who knew him well, and have described him 
with minute accuracy, tell us that the diameter of his head from 
back to front was uncommonly large, that he had a prominent fore- 
head, aquiline nose, highly animated blue eyes, with a chin and 
mouth expressive and comely ; his look was fixed, his aspect thought- 
ful, and the general traits of his physiognomy bespoke strength and 
activity of intellect. 

Throughout life he was distinguished by the affability and polite 
manners of a gentleman; and for his excellence in such accom- 
plishments, his friends have bestowed upon him no ordinary praises. 
To please, in order to instruct, was his favourite maxim ; and even 
in old age, he retained all the gaiety and attic spirit of conversa- 
tion, which eminently distinguished his early years. 

As a scholar, he was well versed in ancient and modern learning, 
and was fond of poetry and eloquence, with which he relieved the 
severity of his professional studies, and furnished fluency and orna- 
ment to his style of conversation and writing. For his reputation, 
both literary and professional, he was little indebted to any adventi- 
tious benefits of fortune. He was endowed with good faculties, a 
penetrating mind, a ready apprehension, exuberant imagination, 
and extraordinary memory, and these qualities he improved by a 
long course of unwearied study and observation. 

As a physician he has left upon the age in which he lived, the 
impress of his character and genius. In the minds of his own coun- 
trymen he holds an undisputed eminence; and amongst foreign 
nations his fame is universally acknowledged. One trait of his cha- 
racter should not be forgotten ; he was eminently charitable to the 
poor, both in direct donations and in giving them his professional 


services gratuitously. There were also two classes of persons whom 
he made it a point never to charge, unless they were in easy circum- 
stances — clergymen and officers of the revolutionary army. It may 
serve as an useful example, especially to the young, to know, that, 
although he was uniformly charitable, and towards his patients ever 
forbearing in his charges, where their circumstances made it neces- 
sary, yet such was his success in life, the result of his great indus- 
try and high character, that besides bringing up a large family in 
abundance, and living with liberal hospitality, he left behind him 
property of value to his family, accumulated solely by his profes- 
sional earnings, never having embarked in any pecuniary specula- 
tions. With him money became the effect, though it never seemed 
to have been the motive of his exertions. It may indeed be doubted 
whether any medical man ever rendered more gratuitous services. 
He constantly enjoined an attention to the sufferings of the indigent 
upon his private pupils, and to his public class ; quoting the remarks 
of Dr. Boerhave, that " he esteemed the poor his best patients, for 
God was their paymaster." Payment for medical services was the 
last object of consideration with him; when called to assist a per- 
son on his death-bed, one of the injunctions to his son, was "to be 
kind to the poor;" and on the day of his funeral, the streets were 
lined with thousands, who shed tears of heart-felt sorrow for the 
loss of their kind and humane benefactor. 


t/iili Street Souse, Boston 


SU.Cor, of S«>4 Arh St'ThAila.. 


Benjamin Franklin, a native of Boston, was born on the seven- 
teenth of January, 170C. His father, who was of the persuasion 
of the Puritans, emigrated in 1G82 to the colony of Massachusetts ; 
he had recourse for a livelihood to the business of chandler and 
soap-boiler, which, during the remainder of his life, he pursued with 
little success, and lived in an innocent and unambitious poverty. 
Of his mother, whom he mentions with affection, he has left no 
very important intelligence: her name was Folger; she was a native 
of Boston, and was descended from one of the principal settlers of 
New England. 

From the facility he discovered in learning the rudiments of his 
native language, his parents believed him endowed with more than 
ordinary genius, and resolved to raise him to the profession of a 
clergyman. He was, therefore, placed in a grammar school to 
receive the requisite instructions. He engaged himself with so 
much ardour in this pious enterprise, and pursued his studies with 
so much diligence, that before he had reached the eighth year of 
his age, he had attained a great reputation in his class, for industry 
and capacity. 

But these academical honours, and hopes of ecclesiastical distinc- 
tion, were of short duration ; for towards the end of the first year, 
his parents discovered that the expense of collegiate instruction 
would far exceed their slender revenues, and he was transferred to 
a school where, at a charge more moderate, he might acquire the 
common principles of an English education. From the latter situa- 
tion, at the expiration of twelve months, he was taken home to 
prosecute the business of his father. 

He was now employed, during two years, in tending the shop, 
cutting wicks for candles, filling moulds, and running errands; nor 
was this period of his life, according to his own estimation, wholly 
unprofitable. By the rigid discipline of economy and industry, and 
by the privations and disappointments to which he was subject from 
40 2B 393 


his indigent condition, lie learned to accommodate his mind to the 
vicissitudes of fortune; he acquired, also, what he justly valued as 
no trivial benefit throughout life, an indifference for the quality of 
his nourishment, with the power of regulating its quantity, as well 
as that of sleep, by the necessities of nature. By these early habits 
of temperance, he likewise seasoned the native vigour of his con- 
stitution, which enabled him, even to an extreme old age, to pre- 
serve the vivacity of his health and spirits. 

Nor was the generosity of his nature concealed amidst the 
drudgery of this servile employment. All the books placed within 
his grasp, which in a new colony were of difficult access, he devoured 
with insatiate rapture: travels, voyages, historical compilations; 
even the odd volumes, which accident offered him, he read with 
frequent repetition; nor did the folios of controversial divinity, 
which the bigotry of his father had preserved, though unintelligible 
to his unripened understanding, escape his undistinguishing voracity. 

In this indiscriminate reading he discovered, however, a few 
works, which he perused with a favourite attention, and which, he 
imagines, had no inconsiderable influence upon the habits and dis- 
positions of his life. Those he has mentioned, are an " Essay upon 
Projects," by Defoe; an "Essay on doing Good," by Mather; and 
the "Lives of Plutarch." For the latter of these in particular he 
entertained the highest admiration: and the frequent perusal of this 
polite and elegant author, presented to his view so opportunely, at 
an age when the impressions are yet lively and permanent, had, no 
doubt, in a mind so formed for moral reflection and virtuous excite- 
ment, a very salutary tendency; and we may reasonably ascribe to 
this partiality many of the eminent virtues which distinguished his 
character ; especially those high sentiments of honour, and undaunted 
love of liberty, which an acquaintance with the writers of antiquity 
seldom fails to produce in generous dispositions. 

But these studies were not of a nature to reconcile him to the 
humility of his condition, for which his original education had 
already inspired him with no very favourable sentiments. The father 
also, entertaining a high sense of literary merit, by applauding the 
industry and exciting the emulation of his son, had contributed not 
a little to animate his ambition. He became, therefore, every day, 
more and more querulous and discontented; and his aversions being 
confirmed by the increase of his age and intelligence, he resolved, 
at length, to disenthral himself from the fetters of so rude and in- 
glorious an occupation. He conceived at first an ardent inclination 


for a sea-faring life. This scheme he was, however, upon applica- 
tion, though urged with frequent importunities, ohligcd to relinquish, 
as his father, who had already lost a son upon the sea, violently 
opposed it. But to console him for the prohibition, he was permit- 
ted to make choice of some business more congenial, than that now 
allotted him, to his genius and inclinations. For this purpose he 
was conducted through the town of Boston, by his father, to inspect 
the various trades; and after much search and deliberation, he 
commenced the business of a culler. At this he remained the stipu- 
lated time of probation, but the sum required as the fee of appren- 
ticeship being thought exorbitant, he was constrained to abandon it; 
and no other occasion intervening, of placing him advantageously, 
he was finally bound to his own brother, as the printer of a news- 
paper. To this business he entertained no particular dislike; but 
to the obligation of an identure, which appears to have been exacted 
by the father's advice, to restrain his roving inclinations, he sub- 
mitted with a very unwilling acquiescence. The choice was, how- 
ever, fortunate, and proved, in the issue, extremely beneficial in 
promoting his interest and reputation. 

Having now entered upon a more respectable employment, or 
one more suited to his natural inclinations, he pursued it with the 
most laborious industry; and soon reached, in the art of printing, 
an ingenuity, not usually at that time attained in America. The 
ordinary intervals of labour, and days of recreation, he employed, 
not after the example of most of his age, in idleness or dissipation, 
but in the increase of his mechanical knowledge and mental accom- 
plishments. Even the devotions of the Sabbath, notwithstanding 
the pious vigilance of his parents, were frequently neglected; his 
meals postponed, and sometimes forgotten; and very often whole 
nights consumed in the pursuit of some favourite study. 

He read, about this time, a work in recommendation of vegetable 
diet, and resolved to abstain altogether from the use of meat; a 
practice which he observed, for several years, with various advan- 
tages; for besides promoting his health and clearness of under- 
standing, as he remarks, it enabled him, of the sum usually expended 
in his boarding, to reserve about one third for the purchase of books; 
and finally, by the unceremonious simplicity of his repasts, which 
consisted but of a few biscuits, and a glass of water, with the occa- 
sional addition of some raisins, he made no inconsiderable acquisi- 
tion of time, for the perusal of the books which his meritorious 
economy had procured him. 


Amongst the authors, which accident opportunely offered to his 
notice, was an odd volume of the Spectator. The charms of this 
writer took possession of his affections, for some time to the exclu- 
sion of every other study. He attempted to imitate his style; and 
the scries of compositions, of which he has given an account in his 
Memoirs, that he used for this imitation, is entitled to no ordinary 
praise; for under the most judicious superintendence, few indeed 
have employed a process more rational, or one which has heen ap- 
proved hy a more ample and evident success: and that he had the 
skill, at an age, when others arc scarcely acquainted with the lowest 
elements of literature, to estimate such writers as Addison, affords 
no doubtful proof of his excellent taste and judgment, and of the 
elevated sentiments he had received from nature. 

Having " failed altogether in Arithmetic, whilst at school," and 
now ashamed of his deficiency in a science so necessary and so 
universal, he procured a book, and by his unaided exertions soon 
attained a sufficient knowledge of it; adding, at the same time, 
some acquaintance with English grammar, geometry, and naviga- 
tion. He studied, likewise, Locke on the Understanding, the Logic 
of the Port Royal, and the Memorabilia of Xenophon. From the 
perusal of the latter author, he contracted a fondness for the cha- 
racter of Socrates; and his manner of reasoning and moralizing he 
afterwards followed with extreme predilection : nor since the age 
of the Athenian philosopher, has there existed, perhaps, in the 
knowledge of mankind, an individual so fitted, by a conformity of 
sentiments and intellects, for this laudable and splendid imitation. 

To the reading of Xenophon ho ascribes the correction of many 
evil habits and propensities. He was addicted to sophistical argu- 
ment, disputation and contradiction: indulging, according to his 
own acknowledgment, in a disposition to raillery, often without 
prudence or generosity; and in his early youth, yet ignorant of the 
laws of propriety, unconscious of the impotence of human reason, 
was presumptuous and pertinacious in his opinions. It is to the 
contrary practice, which he assumed, after the precepts and example 
of Socrates, of urging his sentiments with moderation, and of enlist- 
ing, by his own modesty, the vanity of other men in his favour, that 
he ascribes the powerful influence he always maintained in the 
community, and the success of the numerous enterprises in which 
he engaged for the honour and ornament of his country. 

It was during his apprenticeship that he attempted his first 
literary compositions; of which we may give some account. Of his 


intel ectiuil progress the details cannot be unwelcome, and are per- 
haps not less fertile of instruction than the more turbulent incidents 
of his political life. 

Though born with a genius more favourable to science than to 
polite letters he was first ambitious of the reputation of a poet, and 
having produced many verses in secret, he at length exhibited a 
specimen of his performance, with much diffidence and hesitation, 
to his friends, which was received with great approbation ; and 
encouraged by this first success he published soon after, in a more 
laborious composition, two ballads, which on account of some occa- 
sional interest of the subject, were likewise applauded, and read 
through the town of Boston with avidity; but his father, who ap 
pears to have possessed no contemptible judgment in these matters, 
seeing that the progress of his son's more useful occupations might 
be retarded, or his genius perverted by this inclination for rhyming, 
by criticising ironically his verses, and reminding him of the pro- 
verbial beggary of poets, discouraged him from this species of com- 
position. He persuaded him, however, as a means of procuring 
fortune and reputation, to endeavour to attain excellence in prose, 
and to this object the young Franklin now directed his ambition. 

The newspaper conducted by his brother, being the only vehicle 
of the kind in New England, and the second which had been estab- 
lished in America, engrossed, with much interest, the attention of 
the public. The most accomplished scholars of the town contributed 
to its importance by their communications; and many critics, as- 
sembling daily at the printing-office, discussed the merits of the 
original productions which appeared in it. Franklin, who had 
already caught the rage of publication, being impatient to discover 
the public opinion of his abilities, disguised ingeniously his hand- 
writing, and sent anonymously a paper, which he had composed 
with great care, to the inspection of these critics; and having set 
up the type himself, awaited, with timorous anxiety, the decision of 
its merits. On the next day, his composition being produced, was 
read, commented, and applauded; and he enjoyed the "exquisite 
pleasure," as he terms it, of listening to his own praises ; which 
were bestowed at least without flattery, and though fraught, per- 
haps, with no extraordinary taste or intelligence, contributed to 
encourage his youthful hopes, and animate his future exertions. 

He continued his clandestine correspondence in a succession of 
pieces, which met a still more favourable reception, and amongst 
the readers of the journal excited a lively desire of discovering the 
2 n 2 



author. Nor did the vanity of Franklin long suffer them to labour 
under the burthen of curiosity. 

But this literary success was soon followed by consequences 
which marred his agreeable prospects, and changed in some degree 
the destinies of his life. His writings in the newspaper soon pro- 
cured him the notice of the most distinguished persons of the towu, 
who regarded him as a youth of uncommon abilities. He began, 
therefore, we may reasonably imagine, to entertain sentiments 
above the common drudgery of his business, and perhaps obeyed 
his brother with a less willing submission. The brother, on the 
other hand, who was not remarkable for any superiority of intellect, 
or generosity of mind, observed this growing credit of his apprentice 
with jealousy; and considering his praises as a tacit reproach of 
his own inferiority, was much more inclined to depreciate than 
magnify his merit. From these principles of discord, many quarrels 
and contentions arose between them, which were heightened gra- 
dually by petty provocations to a degree of inextinguishable ran- 
cour, and though sometimes composed by the father, to whose 
arbitration they mutually appealed, burst out again with increased 
animosity, till at length the brother, under sanction of his age and 
privilege of master, resorted to blows in support of his authority. 

This brother, on account of some libellous publication inserted 
in his paper, of which the author's name was refused, was about 
this time imprisoned, and restricted by an award of the court from 
any further exercise of his editorial functions. To evade the latter 
part of the sentence, the young Franklin, by a fictitious agreement, 
became nominal proprietor and editor ; and in this capacity, during 
the incarceration of his brother, defended him with great spirit and 
generosity, publishing several strictures, remarkable for wit and 
satire, against the members of the government. For this gratuitous 
defence, however, in which he had incurred the displeasure of the 
administration, the brother appears to have entertained no very 
profound gratitude, for after his enlargement he not only retained 
his ill-natured passions, but renewed his system of flagellation with 
increased severity. 

This usage Franklin continued to bear, for some time, with silent 
indignation ; but perceiving no reasonable termination of it, resolved, 
by the only expedient which remained for the purpose, to acsert his 
independence ; — to escape from the reach of injuries which his situ- 
ation did not permit him to resent. 

On intimation of this design, his brother's influence and malignity 


precluded, in his native place, all hopes of employment ; and it became 
necessary that lie should seek elsewhere the means of subsistence. 
He had, besides, in the levity of youthful conversation, excited 
t».nongst the pious inhabitants of Boston, some apprehensions con- 
cerning the purity of his religious principles ; and his politics like- 
wise had brought him into disreputation with several of the distin- 
guished members of government ; and having, in this emergency 
found a vessel in the harbour, bound to New York, he engaged a 
passage and embarked abruptly for that city. 

This evasion and breach of obligation, although his indenture 
had been previously cancelled for the benefit of his brother, Frank- 
lin has comprehended, with more generosity than justice, amongst 
the errors of his life. To the severe and arbitrary spirit of this 
brother, he ascribes, however, the first impressions of that hatred 
of tyranny, which influenced all the actions and opinions of his 
future life. 

Having endeavoured, for some time in vain, to procure occupation 
in New York, he proceeded onwards with a feint hope of better for- 
tune, to Philadelphia. After much intermediate fatigue from travel- 
ling on foot, or the rowing of a boat; and having, more than once, 
had occasion to repent of his fugitive expedition, he arrived in that 
city. He now perceived himself, at the age of seventeen years, 
thrown upon the mercy of the world ; at the distance of four hun- 
dred miles from his native home, without a friend or counsellor ; 
with scarce a hope of employment ; and of the slender provision of 
money which he had carried with him, but a single dollar remaining 
in his pocket. 

His appearance at Philadelphia, on this occasion, if we compare 
it with many succeeding incidents of his life, was not a little ro- 
mantic. He is represented as making his entrance into Market 
street with a roll of bread under each arm ; with his pockets enor- 
mously distended by shirts and stockings, which he had crammed into 
them on leaving the boat, and thus accoutred, walking, in the so- 
lemnity of a Sunday morning, through the principal streets of the 
city. An appearance so singular drew upon him, even in those 
days of rustic simplicity, the observation of the inhabitants; among 
others, of his future wife, in whose eyes he made, it seems, "a very 
awkward and ridiculous figure." Having eaten a portion of his bread 
and bestowed the remainder on a fellow passenger, he sought a 
draught of water from the Delaware ; and being afterwards borne, 
by the passing crowd, to a meeting of Quakers, sat down amongst 


them and slept until the end of the service, when he was admonished 
by one of the congregation to retire. 

But two printing houses were, at that time, established in Phila- 
delphia, in one of which he happily obtained employment as com- 
positor ; and instigated by the necessities of his condition, by the 
ardour which enterprising youth feels in the first enjoyment of liberty, 
and sensible that he had now to commence life with no other pre- 
tensions than such as he derived from personal merit, he exerted in 
his business the most studious and indefatigable industry. In his 
private affairs, he observed a scrupulous and parsimonious economy ; 
was seen, during the usual hours of recreation, at the occupations 
of his trade, and all his actions maintaining a strict punctuality and 
regularity of conduct, he soon drew upon him the observation of th< 
public, and filled the town with his praises. By such arts he pro- 
cured money against emergency, and friends whose patronage con- 
tributed to his future reputation and fortune. 

But a short period since his arrival in Philadelphia had elapsed, 
when he was surprised by a visit from the governor of the province, 
Sir William Keith, whom, by his solicitation, he accompanied to a 
neighbouring hotel ; shared his wine and conversation, and received 
a general invitation to his house, which he afterwards frequented, 
with many tokens of kindness and hospitality. For this distinguished 
attention, he was indebted, especially, to the perusal of a letter he 
had written to a friend at New Castle, from which the governor, 
learning the history of his recent adventures, had conceived a fa- 
vourable opinion of his spirit and abilities. 

As a farther mark of his attachment, he proposed that Franklin 
should commence business on his own account, offering in aid of the 
project his own influence, the interest of his friends, and the printing 
of the government; and urged him to return to Boston, with his 
recommendation, to solicit the concurrence of his father. Franklin, 
armed with this powerful intercession, not doubting of success, was 
easily prevailed on to fall in with the scheme ; he therefore com- 
menced his journey, and after an absence of seven months, re-ap- 
peared in his native town. By his relations, with the exception of 
the brother only, who retained a consciousness of his injurious treat- 
ment towards him, he was received with an affectionate welcome. 
Of his brother also he conciliated the favour, on a subsequent visit ; 
and in retribution for the blows he had received, took in charge one 
of his sons, whom he instructed in his trade and established in busi- 
ness. In the principal object of his present visit, however, he proved 


unsuccessful ; for his father advised him, by reason of his age and 
inexperience, to lay aside all further thoughts of his enterprise, and 
to the same effect wrote to his patron the governor. He returned, 
therefore, and resuming his station with his former master, pursued 
his trade with the same assiduous attention. The notice he re- 
ceived from the great stimulated his industry, and added to the pre- 
possessions which the public already entertained in his favour. 

But the zeal of the governor, it appears, was not cooled by in- 
terruption. He invited Franklin still more frequently to his house, 
where he treated him always with the same politeness and affability, 
and resolved at last to acquire for himself the exclusive honour of 
giving success to their projected enterprise. He encouraged him 
to proceed by a vessel of government, then ready to sail, for London, 
that he might make interest with booksellers, and, under his pa- 
tronage, procure such materials as were requisite for his establish- 
ment; a proposition which Franklin readily accepted ; and full of 
gratitude to his generous benefactor, embarked on his voyage ; nor 
was it until his arrival in a foreign country, three thousand miles 
from his native home, that he perceived, with astonishment, no pro- 
vision, not even that which the immediate exigencies of his condition 
required, had heen made for him ; that in London his patron was 
without credit, and that he was much less aided than dishonoured 
by his credentials. He was now involved in the most distressful 
perplexities ; seduced from a prosperous business ; all his other 
schemes interrupted, and was turned loose a stranger amidst the 
competition of a vast city to struggle for the means of subsistence. 

Franklin was much embarrassed concerning the measures which, 
in this difficult emergency, he ought to pursue ; but had too much 
force of character, had been too much accustomed to vicissitudes, 
and was too fertile in expedients, to sink into a pusillanimous de- 
jection. Upon the whole, this disappointment, as it furnished him 
the opportunity of increasing his acquaintance with the world ; of 
improving the essential knowledge of his profession; and of resum- 
ing, on his return to America, his career with greater confidence 
and prospects of success, is to be regarded only as a temporary 

He obtained employment in one of the most considerable print- 
ing houses in London, and by his industry soon secured the esteem 
and favour of his patrons. By his temperate habits and rigid eco- 
nomy he procured, not only a decent subsistence for himself, but 
I he means also of relieving the necessities of his friends. 


During his short residence in London, Franklin pursued his pri- 
vate studies with so much diligence, and discovered so generous an 
ambition for literary improvement, as caused him to be regarded 
by the ingenuous part of his acquaintance with great partiality. He 
obtained, by subscription, access to an extensive library, and was 
prompted by some occasional interests of the subject, or by an im- 
pertinent inclination for scribbling, to compose a small pamphlet 
upon Deistical Metaphysics. This served, at that time, to diffuse 
his name amongst the multitude, and procured him a favourable in- 
troduction to several persons of distinguished infidelity ; amongst 
others, to Mandcville, who hailed him as a youth of very promising 
abilities. , 

This youthful levity on the subject of religion, when he had 
accpiired a riper age and more ample intelligence, he emphatically 
condemned ; but the extreme aversion which, in common with all 
men of honest feelings, he entertained for that senseless dogmatism 
and mischievous intolerance which prevailed amongst the sects of 
his time, in America as well as in Europe, led him sometimes to 
express sentiments on religious subjects, that were not always ap- 
proved. Honest men he believed, without any regard to religious 
denominations, were equally entitled to esteem ; and he even pro- 
cured at Philadelphia, the establishment of a church, in which 
all sects might worship according to the dictates of their own 

Having resided for a year and a half in the British capital, and 
growing tired of the uniformity of his life, he concerted a scheme, 
with an enterprising companion, of travelling through the continent 
of Europe. Another project, also, he had in view, of establishing 
a school of natation ; some feats of activity having spread an admi- 
ration for his skill in that art amongst the nobility ; but by the acci- 
dental intervention of a mercantile acquaintance, who was at this 
time preparing merchandise to be transported to Pennsylvania, 
these designs were interrupted. By a promise of contributing to 
his future elevation in business, he was solicited by this friend to 
accompany him as a clerk; an offer, which his natural preposses- 
sions in favour of his native country did not permit him to refuse; 
and on the twenty-second of July, 1726, they set sail for America. 

During the leisure of this voyage, he employed himself in mark- 
ing down its incidents in a journal, and having now reached the 
twenty-first year of his age, and thinking it unbecoming the charac- 
ter of man, to whom heaven has imparted intelligence and reason, 


to fluctuate without a design through life, he resolved to form some 
plan for his future conduct, by which he might promote his fortune, 
and procure respect and reputation in society. This plan is pre- 
faced by the following reflections: " Those who write of the art of 
poetry, leach us, that if we would write what would be worth the 
reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a regular design 
of our piece; otherwise we shall be in danger of incongruity. I 
am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have never fixed a regu- 
lar design in life; by which means it has been a confused variety of 
different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me, there- 
fore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that, 
henceforth, I ma)' live in all respects like a rational creature." 

To these remarks he annexed a series of rules and moral prin- 
ciples, which, at the same time they show his noble ardour for vir- 
tue, may afford to others, animated with the same spirit, no unpro- 
fitable example. They are partly as follow: 

" I resolve to be extremely frugal for some time, until I pay what 
I owe. 

" To speak the truth in every instance, and give no one cxpecta 
tions that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every 
word and action — the most amiable excellence in a rational being. 

" To apply myself industriously in whatever business I take in 
hand, and not divert my mind by any foolish project of growing 
suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of 

" I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter 
of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged 
upon others, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I know 
of every body, &c." 

To these resolutions, although they were formed in the ardour of 
a youthful imagination, he adhered, with a scrupulous fidelity; and 
the foundation, we must admit, was not unworthy of the superstruc- 
ture he afterwards reared upon it. 

He arrived in Philadelphia on the eleventh of October, and em- 
barked upon his new-adopted profession. By his application to 
business, he soon gained the esteem and favour of his employer, was 
about to be appointed supercargo to the West Indies, and already 
entertained magnificent hopes of prosperous fortune. We cannot 
doubt, with the qualities of industry, economy, and enterprise which 
marked his character, that, by pursuing this business, he had tran- 
scended the usual honours of the counting-house; but the sudden 


decease of his patron interrupted all his dreams of affluence and 
felicity; he was once more thrown out of employment, and sunk 
again into the obscurity of a journeyman printer. 

He entered the service of his former master, a man of noted 
insolence and ignorance; from whom, at the expiration of a few 
months, he was impelled by rude treatment to a separation; an 
event which exposed him, for a while, to new vexations and difficul- 
ties, but served to hasten the accomplishment of a more important 
scheme which had principally occupied his mind, — the establishing 
of business on his own account. By the incessant fluctuation of his 
life, this project appeared indeed to be attended with little proba- 
bility of success; but the knowledge he had acquired of his profes- 
sion happily supplied his pecuniary deficiency, and procured him a 
partner, more fortunate and less skilful, who furnishing the means 
requisite to the enterprise, he was enabled, at last, to bring this 
great object of his wishes to a happy issue. 

The prospect now opened to his view furnished a more powerful 
incentive to his ambition ; and having to encounter, in the com- 
mencement of his business, a competition with others long since 
established, it is in this emergency of his life, that he employed the 
most indefatigable and laborious activity. From the earliest to the 
latest hours, he was seen busied in the objects of his trade; in the 
composition of types, preparing of stationery, and often transport- 
ing it in a wheelbarrow through the streets of the city; abstaining 
not only from the common recreations of his age, but even from his 
favourite passion of reading, except in the secrecy of the night, lest 
he should incur the imputation of indolence or dissipation. This 
studious gravity of deportment, carried so far beyond what is usual 
to his age, and so congenial to the demure and stately habits which 
prevailed, at that time, in the society in which he lived, added to 
the punctuality and fidelity with which he fulfilled his engagements, 
soon procured him a very extensive and honourable acquaintance. 
These enabled him to give extension to his business; and at last 
to get rid of a worthless partner, who embarrassed his plans and 

In the preceding portion of his life, he had subsisted wholly at the 
mercy of fortune; exposed to a perpetual vicissitude of inspiring 
hopes and vexatious disappointments. From this. period, the ob- 
structions which had hitherto limited his genius, and prejudiced his 
interests, were in a great measure removed ; and in his subsequent 
career, though circumvented by many difficulties, and engaged per- 


petually in the most complicated or dangerous enterprises, he eon- 
ducted them all with uniform success and felicity, and advanced with 
a firm and undeviating step in the progress of fortune and prefer- 
ment. In reviewing this period of his history, he has remarked with 
a generous pride, that he had passed through the storms of youth, 
notwithstanding his exposure to evil company, with an unsullied re- 
putation, and under the pressure of the most imminent necessities; 
that he had used no cringing submissions; or resorted to no mean- 
ness of expedient for a subsistence. 

In 1730 he married a lady whose maiden name was Read; whom 
he had courted before his departure for England, had forgotten 
during his absence, and now espoused in her widowhood. She had 
suffered many injuries from the volatile affections of a former hus- 
band; with the present one she lived in full enjoyment of connubial 
harmony, and by her virtues, as well as by her misfortunes, appears 
to have merited so auspicious a connexion. 

Soon after his return to America he instituted, in connexion with 
several young men of respectable character and abilities, a club, of 
which he has spoken with great affection in his Memoirs, denomi- 
nated " The Junto," in which were discussed scientific, moral, and 
political subjects; an association which endured with undiminished 
reputation for thirty years, and was at last succeeded by the present 
Philosophical Society. It had a very salutary influence in promoting 
economy, virtue, and public institutions; and not only in creating a 
literary emulation among its members, but in diffusing a curiosity for 
letters in the community. Of the beneficent nature of the club, a 
conjecture may be drawn from the questions which preceded their 
debates; some of which are as follow: 

"Have you met with anything, in the author you last read, 
remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? particu- 
larly in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or 
other parts of knowledge. 

" Do you know any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy 
action, deserving praise and imitation? or who has lately committed 
an error, proper for us to be warned against and avoid? 

" What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately ob- 
served or heard of? of imprudence? of passion? or of any other 
vice or folly ? 

"What happy effects of temperance? of prudence? of modera- 
tion? or of any other virtue? 

" Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may 
2 C 


be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to 

" Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting-, 
that you heard of? and what have you heard or observed of his 
character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of 
the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves? 

" Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, 
whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage? 

" Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties 
of the people? 

"Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? and what can 
the Junto do towards securing it? 

" Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the 
Junto, or any of them, can procure for you? 

" Have you lately heard any member's character attacked, and 
how have you defended it?" 

As a qualification of admission, it was required also, that each 
member should answer to the following questions : 

"Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general; of 
what profession or religion soever? 

" Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, 
name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way 
of worship? 

" Do you love truth for truth's sake, and will you endeavour 
impartially to find and receive it yourself and communicate it to 

The exigencies in which Franklin had passed his early youth, 
and the expedients he was forced to employ, that he might improve 
his fortune, drew him from all barren speculations towards those 
only, which might tend to ameliorate the condition and happiness 
of his species. All his leading enterprises appear to have been 
undertaken with a view to the public good; and even to those 
which might seem indifferent, he gave the same tendency. From 
incidents however minute, he extracted some salutary moral which 
had escaped vulgar observation. To practise virtue and propagate 
it amongst mankind, he considered as the common business of his 
life, nor did he suffer any effort which might contribute to that pur- 
pose to remain unemployed. Like Lycurgus, he wished that the 
praise of virtue and contempt of vice should be interwoven with all 
the actions and discourses of men, and that such images as tended 
to elevate the fancy and enlighten the understanding, should be per- 


petually exhibited to their observation. Even upon the current 
coin of the country, as it was exposed to the frequent inspection of 
the multitude, he advised that instead of the image of a king or an 
emperor, some pious or prudential maxim should be engraven, 
which might leave a salutary impression upon the mind. 

In 173"2, he commenced, and continued for twenty-five years, the 
publication of "Poor Richard's Almanac;" a work of modest pre- 
tension and of humble title, which his fertile genius rendered, in 
addition to its utility as a calendar, subservient to the most essential 
interests of the community; especially by the diffusion of instruction 
amongst that class of the people, who by their poverty or laborious 
occupations, are usually deprived of this advantage. The last, of 
1757, in which he collected the principal matter of the preceding 
numbers, was republished in various forms in Great Britain, and 
thence translated into foreign languages, was dispersed and read 
with great avidity throughout the whole continent of Europe. 

To his printing establishment, he attached, about this time, a 
newspaper; which, besides the discussion of politics, he replenished 
with productions of poetry, history, eloquence, and such other sub- 
jects of polite literature, as he supposed would improve the taste 
and morals of his country. This paper, it is said, he kept unpol- 
luted by scurrillity, malignant personalities, or indecent arrogance, 
and sustained it in reputation, in those days, without departing from 
the sober rules of propriety. 

Believing that those who attempt a reformation of the world, 
should themselves be irreproachable, he very reasonably accom- 
panied his splendid theory of popular reform, by a rigid scrutiny of 
his private conduct. For this purpose he had recourse to an expe- 
dient with which he was for some time greatly enamoured; by the 
means of which, it appears, he even entertained the hope of arriving 
at " moral perfection." Having written upon a tabular catalogue, 
all those virtues which he thought essential to the perfection of the 
human character, he made upon this scale, every evening, a diligent 
examination of his conduct during each day; a practice which he 
pursued with his usual inflexibility of resolution, until such habits 
were confirmed as rendered this circumspection unnecessary; and 
although he fell short of his ultimate ambition, he ascribes to "this 
little artifice" much of the happiness of his life. 

In the mean time he remitted nothing of his usual diligence in 
literary application. A few hours of each day were set apart for 
study, during which he qualified himself for discussing the political 


interests of his country. He acquired also a competent knowledge 
of the Italian. and Spanish languages, and of the Latin, the rudi- 
ments of which he had been taught in his early youth. He studied, 
likewise, the French, and attained a greater proficiency in that lan- 
guage than is usually acquired by a foreigner; for he composed 
witn accuracy, and conversed with almost the fluency of a native. 
Amongst his confederates of the "Junto," he obtained a small col- 
lection of books, for the purpose of reference in their debates, to 
which many volumes being occasionally superadded, he procured, 
at length, the establishment of the Philadelphia Library. This was 
the first institution of the kind in America; but from its manifest 
convenience and utility, the example was soon followed through the 
other towns of the provinces, and had a sensible influence, it is said, 
upon the manners of the inhabitants. 

He published, in 1729, a pamphlet very highly approved, " con- 
cerning the Nature and Necessity of Paper Currency ;" and cm- 
ployed otherwise his credit in promoting the use of that money ; by 
which he acquired great favour with the public. He published 
about the same time, various essays in his newspaper upon popular 
topics, which being written in his usual fascinating manner, and the 
emulation of parties bringing them into notice, contributed also to 
the extension of his reputation. He was appointed by the govern- 
ment of Pennsylvania, official printer; his subscriptions increased, 
and he began to entertain every day more flattering views of futurity. 

In 1736, he was chosen clerk of the general assembly, and in the 
following year, postmaster of Philadelphia ; and being no longer 
overwhelmed by the blasting influence of domestic necessities, his 
genius began from this time to emerge, and to be employed in 
schemes of public utility. His first enterprise of municipal im- 
provement, was to organize fire companies, to reform the watch of 
the city, and procure the paving and lighting of the streets ; all of 
which, by his perseverance, he brought to a successful termination. 
He concerted and carried into complete success, in 1736, the esta- 
blishment of the " American Philosophical Society," and of a college 
for the regular education of youth, none existing at that time in the 
colony, which, by successive amplification and improvement, pro- 
duced the present University of Pennsylvania. He procured, also, 
a grant from the legislature, for the establishment and endowment 
of the Pennsylvania Hospital ; and so much, indeed, did he contri- 
bute to the ornament, benefit and glory of this city, that he may 
justly be considered as its second founder : of a city, which, by the 


influence of a few superior minds, has become the pride of this 
continent; and in the multitude of its benevolent institutions, in the 
arts of luxury and a numerous population at least, if not in love 
of science, ( to its benefactors, may, at a period not very 
remote, emulate the most illustrious cities of the world. 

It must not be forgotten that Franklin promoted, also, the honour 
and interests of the whole province of Pennsylvania, at this time, by 
providing for it a system of military discipline; an object which, by 
the impolitic religious scruples of the legislature, had been totally 
neglected; although it had been imperiously requisite for protecting 
the frontier from the atrocious massacres to which it was exposed 
from the invasions of the savages. To accomplish this enterprise, he 
first published a pamphlet, by which he disposed the public mind to 
favourable impressions ; he then drew up articles of a military as- 
sociation, and procured their adoption in a convocation of the people ; 
by the influence of which ten thousand men were soon assembled 
for the defence of their country; and under his auspices were trained 
to the use and exercise of arms. A commission was offered him, of 
high rank in the Philadelphia regiment, which he refused in favour of 
a person whom he supposed more competent to the discharge of its 
duties. Batteries were, at the same time, erected under his inspec- 
tion, at the entrance of the town, from the proceeds of a lottery 
which had been procured for that purpose, by his instigation and 
management; and to so great a height of reputation had he now 
grown, for experience and capacity, that no scheme of public good 
was deemed rational, unless he had approved it; and no important 
enterprise will be found, which, during those days, was not conducted 
by his counsel and direction. 

In 1741, he commenced the publication of a "General Magazine 
and Historical Chronicle for the British Plantations," which he con- 
ducted in addition to his Gazette. This work, to render it accept- 
able to the dogmatic spirit of his readers, is much interlarded and 
disfigured by controversial divinity; there is, however, much useful 
matter, moral, historical, and scientific, which does honour to the 
capacity and industry of the author. Nor were these labours unre- 
warded, for he received from all sides the most flattering and spon- 
taneous testimonies of esteem, and from every branch of the 
administration the highest deference was paid to his opinions and 

The common and useful arts of life, whatever might be the nature 
of his leading occupations, never failed to occupy some portion of 
42 2 c 2 


his time and attention. He composed, and in 1742 published a 
treatise upon the improvement of chimneys ; and contrived at the 
same time a stove, of very ingenious construction, which he made 
a present to the public, and which has not been supplanted by any 
subsequent invention. 

The great diligence which he observed in the duties already as- 
signed him in the government, and the eminent abilities he had 
discovered in conceiving and conducting enterprises useful to the 
state, advanced very rapidly his claims to preferment. By the go- 
vernor, he was commissioned justice of the peace ; soon afterwards 
alderman ; and by the corporation was appointed one of the common 
council of the city. He was elected, in 1744, a member of the pro- 
vincial legislature, and so unlimited a popularity did he obtain in 
that assembly, notwithstanding his deficient eloquence as a public 
speaker, that his election was repeated for ten years without the 
solicitation of a vote. He possessed, in an eminent degree, the 
talent of gaining men's affections ; and if we consider how essential 
are the arts of insinuation to the accomplishment of all honest and 
useful enterprises, it must be allowed that to practise them skilfully 
is not the last degree of praise. 

It is at this period that we are to notice the rise and progress 
of his philosophical reputation. In 1747, he had accidentally wit- 
nessed at Boston, a few experiments exhibited by some itinerant 
Scotchman upon electricity, which, though imperfectly performed, 
awakened his curiosity to that subject. Upon his return to Phila- 
delphia, he repeated the same experiments with complete success, 
and adding others, of which he had received some account from 
England, the science, at length, wholly occupied his ambition. Thus 
by a trivial accident were elicited discoveries, which soon afterwards 
diffused his fame through the world, and drew upon his native coun- 
try the regard and attention of all Europe. 

Having acquired a dexterity in performing those experiments, 
which had recently employed the philosophers of the old world, he 
first accounted for various phenomena that were yet unexplained, 
and soon afterwards added some new and important discoveries of 
his own ; such as of the power of points, in eliciting and throwing 
oft* the accumulated fluid ; and of the negative and positive state of 
electricity. About the year 1745, he discovered various properties 
of the Leyden Vial ; as the means of accumulating, retaining, and 
discharging any quantity of the electric matter with safety; an ac- 
count of which he transmitted to London to his friend Mr. Collinson, 


in 1747. He was the first who fired gunpowder, gave magnetism to 
needles of steel, melted metals and killed animals of considerable 
size, by means of electricity. 

From his various observations upon this fluid, he was at length 
induced to imagine its identity with lightning. He attempted, there- 
fore, to explain, upon this principle, the theory of thunder-gusts, and 
of the Aurora Borealis ; and in 1749 conceived the design, the most 
sublime perhaps that has entered into the imagination of man, of 
drawing from the heavens its lightning, and conducting its terrific 
energy, harmless into the bowels of the earth. 

The following is the account of this experiment, by Dr. Priestley, 
whose eminence in physical knowledge, and intimacy with Frank- 
lin, enabled him to give its particulars with minuteness and pre- 

" Franklin, after having published his method of verifying his 
hypothesis concerning the sameness of electricity with the matter 
of lightning, was waiting for the erection of a spire in Philadelphia 
to carry his views into execution, not imagining that a pointed 
rod of a moderate height, could answer the purpose ; when it oc- 
curred to him, that by means of a common kite, he could have a 
readier and better access to the regions of thunder than by any spire 
whatever. Preparing, therefore, a large silk handkerchief, and two 
cross sticks, of a proper length, on which to extend it, he took the 
opportunity of the first approaching thunder-storm to take a walk 
into the field, in which there was a shed convenient for his purpose. 
But dreading the ridicule which too commonly attends unsuccessful 
attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to 
nobody but his son, who assisted him in raising the kite. 

" The kite being raised, a considerable time elapsed before there 
was any appearance of its being electrified. One very promising 
cloud had passed over without any effect; when, at length, just as 
he was beginning to despair of his contrivance, he observed some 
loose threads of the hempen string to stand erect, and to avoid one 
another, just as if they had been suspended on a common conduc- 
tor. Struck with this favourable appearance, he immediately pre- 
sented his knuckle to the key, — and let the reader judge of the 
exquisite pleasure he must have felt at that moment, — the discovery 
was complete. He perceived a very evident electric spark. Others 
succeeded even before the string was wet, so as to put the matter 
past all dispute ; and when the rain had wet the string, lie collected 
elec/ric fire very copiously. This happened in June, 1752, a month 


after the electricians in France had verified the same theory, but 
before lie had heard of any thing they had done." 

A relation of these experiments was communicated by Franklin 
himself, in letters to a friend in London. " Nothing," says Priest- 
ley, "was ever written on the subject of electricity more justly ad- 
mired, in all parts of Europe, than these letters. Electricians every 
where employed themselves in repeating his experiments, or exhi- 
biting them for money. All the world, in a manner, even kings 
themselves, flocked to see them, and all retired full of admiration 
for the inventor of them." In New England, by Yale College and 
that of Cambridge, a degree of Master of Arts was conferred upon 
him, in honour of his discoveries. By the Royal Society of London 
they were at first treated with a heedless or malignant inattention. 
On the continent, they were made public by the celebrated Buftbn. 
The experiments were repeated before Louis XV. by M. De Loz, 
and were verified by many other philosophers; in Turin, by Father 
Beccaria ; in Russia, by professor Richmann, who, in the experi- 
ment of the kite, perished by a stroke of lightning. 

The reputation of Franklin had now become too notorious, not 
to excite, among the learned, some feelings of jealousy. In France, 
he met a transient but violent opposition from the Abbe Nollet; and 
the professors of England especially, attempted to detract from his 
praises; using many fruitless endeavours to invalidate the truth of 
his experiments, and finally to rob him of the honours of originality. 
But Franklin, in his scientific as well as his political career, though 
armed with all that good sense, that keen and sarcastic wit which 
would have insured him credit in a critical altercation, opposed his 
adversaries only by silence, and left to the peaceful but sure opera- 
tion of time, the task of vindicating his merit. This he has him- 
self given as a rule of prudence, as well as of magnanimity, and his 
own example has justified the wisdom of his policy; for the world 
is now filled with his fame, and his praises have ceased to excite 
envy or opposition. 

It cannot be expected that we should here enumerate all the 
experiments that he made, or the treatises he has composed on the 
various branches of science ; for there is scarcely any one that 
has not occupied some portion of his attention. He made several 
curious experiments upon the effects of oil in stilling the waters 
of the ocean; to ascertain whether boats are not drawn with more 
difficulty in small canals, than in great bodies of water; to improve 
the art of swimming; and to prove that thirst may be allayed by 


bathing in sea water. He made observations, also, in his voyages 
to Europe, on the gradual progress of the north-east storms, along 
tne American coast, contrary to the direction of the winds; and 
likewise, for the benefit of navigation, made experiments on the 
course, velocity, and temperature of the Gulf Stream. He made, 
also, curious observations upon the air; upon the relative powers 
of metals in the conducting of heat; and upon the different degrees 
acquired by congenial bodies of various colours, from the rays of 
the sun. He composed likewise an ingenious treatise upon the for- 
mation of the earth, and the existence of a universal fluid. Music, 
also, he cultivated with success, and wrote many letters on that 
science with great ingenuity. He revived and improved the Har- 
monica, and performed with taste upon that instrument. But we 
must now return to the narrative of his political transactions. 

It was the peculiar advantage of Franklin, from his early youth, 
to have mingled business with study and speculation. Such was 
more frequently the education of the ancients. Some of their most 
famous poets were generals and admirals. Xcnophon, Thnycidides, 
and even Socrates, fought the battles of their respective countries, 
and enjoyed the highest trust in the administration of their govern- 
ments. In modern manners the scholar, from a deficiency of prac- 
tical experience or a love of solitude, is mostly unequal to the hum- 
blest employments, and often sinks under his load of erudition to 
obscurity, whilst more superficial qualities rise to the first honours 
of the state. 

In 1758, he was sent by the provincial assembly to conclude a 
treaty with the Indians at Carlisle; and in the following year was 
appointed on a more important mission to Albany, where the British 
government had assembled a congress of commissioners to confer 
upon a plan of defence for the colonies, against the threatened hos- 
tilities of the French, and the incursions of the savages. While on 
his journey to this place, he devised and reduced to writing, a pro- 
ject for the coalition of the colonies, as far as might be requisite to 
their defence, under a single administration. A president for this 
general government, according to his plan, was to be appointed by the 
crown ; a grand council by the provincial assemblies; and amongst 
the constitutional duties of the assembly, that of laying taxes was 
especially assigned to the representatives of the people. 

Bat this measure, notwithstanding the unanimous concurrence 
of the congress, was, by the provincial legislatures, almost unani- 
mously rejected, as affording to the royal officers an authority too 


ample and dangerous ; and the British ministers, on the other nand, 
had too much discernment not to discover that the tendency of such 
a union was unfavourable to their designs of government; which, 
at the same time that it afforded to the colonies vigour and protec- 
tion from their enemy, furnished them, by placing them in a mili- 
tary posture, the means of resisting the sovereignty of the mother 
country. It was therefore rejected with equal promptitude on their 
part, as " savouring too much of democracy." It was then resolved, 
after deliberation, as an expedient more safe and prudent, that the 
measures of defence should be committed to the governors and 
their councils, who were generally under the implicit control of the 
British government; and that the sums expended in that object 
should be reimbursed by act of parliament laying a tax upon the 
colonies. To this scheme, especially the latter part of it, Franklin 
exerted the most strenuous opposition, during which he discovered, 
as subsequent events have testified, the most intimate acquaintance 
with the interests and passions of his countrymen. In his corres- 
pondence with the governor of Massachusetts, on this subject, not 
only did he employ all the leading arguments that were urged with 
greater diffusion during the revolution, but predicted, with the most 
unerring precision, all the fatal consequences that would result to 
the British government from such impolitic pretensions. 

About this time he was appointed, upon the decease of the deputy 
postmaster-general of America, to supply his place in that office; 
an office hitherto unproductive, but which, by various improvements, 
and by prudence and dexterity of management, he rendered a very 
fruitful source of revenue to the crown. In this station he afforded 
to General Braddock the most substantial aid in carrying on his 
operations against Fort Du Quesne : not only by personal services, 
which were left without any other reward than the thanks and ap- 
probation of the general, but by contributions of money, which, by 
the issue of that wild and fatal expedition, and the negligence of 
the British government, were never repaid. 

By the defeat of Braddock, the whole province was exposed to 
the inroads of the barbarians and French, who extended even to 
the interior of the country their devastations and ravages. Profit- 
ing by the occasion, Franklin introduced into the assembly a bill for 
the establishing and training a voluntary militia; an objeet, which, 
as he pursued it with eagerness, and as the fears of the majority 
prevailed over their religious scruples, he was enabled, after many 
exertions, successfully to accomplish. He afterwards raised, at 


the solicitation of the governor, a small body of troops, which he 
marched to the protection of the frontier; performing a campaign 
which required, indeed, much labour and diligence, but which fur- 
nished little opportunity for the acquisition of glory, or the display 
of military abilities. Having erected the necessary fortifications, 
he was recalled to a scene of life more congenial to his habits and 
inclinations. In military affairs he usually pleaded incapacity; and 
having been altogether bred up to civil pursuits, it is probable that 
the technical operations of war had engaged no considerable share 
of his attention. He possessed, however, beyond doubt, many of 
the great talents of a soldier; courage, stratagem, patience, and 
activity ; and had his inclinations led him to the profession of arms, 
he had not served his country, in that capacity, without glory. 

By the contentions which for a long period had existed between 
the people of Pennsylvania and the proprietary government, and 
which the present exigencies of the state had increased to an un- 
usual height of animosity, Franklin was called to a more important 
theatre for the exertion of his abilities ; and now, for the first time, 
engaged in those political competitions and factions which engrossed, 
almost without intermission, the residue of his life. 

Of the American colonies, some, from their origin, had enjoyed 
the privilege of choosing their own executive and judicial officers; 
and by this benignity of fortune advanced, without discord or ob- 
struction, in the career of their prosperity; amongst the rest, the 
executive authority was either vested in the crown, which gave birth 
to many furious contentions, that often impeded the most salutary 
measures of the administration; or finally, was delegated, by char- 
ter, to individuals, who under the denomination of proprietors, ex- 
erted this power by themselves or deputies, and transmitted it to 
their posterity; which latter system of policy proved least compati- 
ble with the happiness of the people. Thus the Carolinas languished 
for half a century under the counsels of the proprietors, and flourished 
only when relieved from the influence of their inauspicious and aris- 
tocratical domination. 

Under the auspices of its illustrious founder, this system of govern- 
ment, in Pennsylvania, was not unprosperous; but became too pon- 
derous and unwieldy for the less potent arm of his successors to sus- 
tain it. The venerable illusions which had supported the institu- 
tions of Penn were, in the age of Franklin, no longer effectual; 
men were now to be governed by mere human authority, and to be 
deceived by less holy and innocent expedients. The great dispute 


now in agitation, was occasioned by an attempt of the proprietors 
to exonerate their private estates from taxation, and their refusing 
to give their sanction, even in times of extreme necessity, to the 
appropriations for the defence of the province, unless this immunity 
were confirmed. Franklin arrayed himself, with eagerness, against 
the pretensions of the executive; and from his abilities as a writer, 
and extensive popularity, soon became their most formidable anta- 
gonist. The proprietary faction, sensible of the weight of his in- 
fluence, set themselves with emulation to conciliate his favour. All 
that could manifest their extreme affection for him; expressions of 
civility, protestations of regard, offers of preferment, with all the 
persuasions of gentle language, they employed to propitiate his 
good will or deprecate his hostility. But Franklin, who of all men 
living, was least subject to that softness of human nature, which 
renders honest men the dupes or instruments of knavery, pursued, 
without deviation, his honourable purpose. 

At length the pertinacity with which the proprietors urged their 
pretensions, drove the assembly to refer their cause to the jurisdic- 
tion of the mother country, and Franklin was appointed to proceed 
thither as advocate of the province. He undertook this office with- 
out reluctance, embarked upon his voyage in June, and arrived in 
London in July, 1757. 

The task of Franklin was, on this occasion, not only to enlighten 
the ignorant and animate the indifferent, but to dissipate prejudices, 
and to repress the calumnies of those who desired to encroach upon 
the interests of his clients. In the execution of this task, the con- 
sideration which he already enjoyed as a man of letters and science, 
by procuring him the acquaintance of many powerful individuals of 
the government, afforded him very important facilities. He also 
made use, in his turn, of the public journals, in which he combated 
with great ability, the efforts of his opponents; representing their 
administration not only as destructive to the colonial interests, but 
reproachful to the character of the British nation. Finding it, 
however, necessary to descend to an explication more minute and 
definite on this subject, he published, in 1759, the " Historical Re- 
view of Pennsylvania," in which he traced the whole policy of the 
proprietary government, through its progressive stages, up to his 
own time. This work, which was published anonymously, as a 
composition is considered to be inferior to the generality of his 
writings; but notwithstanding the uninteresting nature of the sub- 
ject, and the haste in which it was composed, there appeared suffi- 


cient of the good sense of Franklin, and of the sprightliness of Iiis 
genius, to draw upon it the attention of the public; and it is sup- 
posed to have contributed very essentially to the success of the ne- 
gotiation. The proprietary party at least, whatever may have been 
the cause, gradually abated their pretensions, and assented to such 
terms of accommodation as satisfied the wishes of the province. 

The turbulence and disorders arising from these frequent con- 
tentions of the colonies with their governors, were in a great degree 
counterbalanced by many beneficial consequences. They created, 
amongst the people, a propensity to political discussions, taught 
them to reason upon the principles of government, upon their con- 
stitutional privileges and relations with the mother country, and 
nourished that spirit of liberty, which bore them with so much felicity 
through the perils of their glorious and important revolution. 

The excellent capacity for business which Franklin discovered in 
this negotiation greatly increased his popularity amongst his country- 
men; and he was now intrusted with the additional agencies of 
Massachusetts, Georgia, and Maryland ; it spread also his reputa- 
tion more extensively through England, and consequently enlarged 
the circle of his usefulness in that country. He formed connexions 
with a great number of persons of eminent rank and influence; 
and profiting by their intimacy, and by the observations his situation 
enabled him to make upon mankind; upon the policy of states and 
arts of life; qualified himself to perform, with distinction and suc- 
cess, the many enterprises in which he afterwards engaged for the 
interest and glory of his country. 

He travelled; at this time, into Scotland, and there, as in England, 
cultivated several useful acquaintances. He contracted a friendship 
with Lord Kaimes, which, notwithstanding the intervening storms 
and turbulence of the revolution, subsisted with intimate familiarity 
until the termination of their lives; and his letters to that distin- 
guished scholar form a very pleasing and instructive portion of his 
published correspondence. He was now elected, with special 
honours, a member of the Royal Society, and was admitted to the 
highest degrees in some of the Scotch and English universities. 

A party, at this period, existed in England, who sought to draw 
oft" the attention of the British cabinet from the war of Germany, to 
the conquest of the French possessions in America. With these, 
Franklin united his endeavours; and possessing a minute knowledge 
of the country; a species of knowledge, too, in which the wisest 
statesmen of England had shown a shameful deficiency ; he became 
43 5D 


instrumental in projecting and carrying into effect the expedition 
against Canada under General Wolfe. He published, likewise, a 
pamphlet to favour the same ohject, which, rendering the enterprise 
a subject of more general attention, had no inconsiderable influence, 
we may reasonably suppose, in the final acquisition of that territory 
to the British government. 

By this conquest his countrymen were not only relieved from the 
vicinity of a dangerous enemy, which for half a century had occu- 
pied them with perpetual wars and alarms; and procured leisure to 
attend to their domestic politics; but acquired, during the warlike 
operations of this contest, a respectable share of military discipline, 
and a consciousness of their own strength, by a comparison with 
the British troops and with those of their enemy; and if we admit 
also that a spirit of revenge for the loss of their provinces, prompted 
the French to a more willing alliance with the Americans during 
the revolution, we must regard this conquest as no inconsiderable 
event in the production of our independence. 

In the summer of 1762, he returned to America. Upon his 
arrival, the assembly of Pennsylvania voted him their thanks for 
his meritorious services, which, as a more solid testimonial of their 
approbation, they accompanied with a compensation of five thousand 
pounds; and as his election had been continued during his absence, 
he resumed, without interruption, his seat in the house. 

In 1763, he travelled into the northern colonies to inspect and 
regulate the post offices ; performing a tour of about 1600 miles. 
At his return he was named commissioner to raise troops for the 
defence of the frontier, at that time infested by the incursions of the 
savages. Some insurrections, also, which broke out in the interior 
of Pennsylvania, in which about twenty of the peaceful Indians were 
murdered by the inhabitants, and other acts of violence threatened, 
afforded him much laborious and ungrateful employment. He wrote, 
on this occasion, a pamphlet, which rendering the proceedings of the 
rioters unpopular and odious, served not a little to strengthen the 
arm of the administration, and restore peace to an impotent and 
disorderly government. 

In the mean time the proprietary faction, repenting of the facility 
with which they had relinquished their former pretensions, began 
to resume them with increased importunity; and the assembly 
entertaining, at last, no hope that they would abandon privileges, 
upon which they had set so high a value, determined to petition the 
king for the entire abolition of their authority. Franklin, by whose 


counsels this measure was principally recommended, encountered a 
violent opposition, and by the intrigues and activity of his adver- 
saries, was at length excluded, by a small majority, from the 
assembly, where he had held a predominant influence during fifteen 
years. The power of his friends was nevertheless prevalent in the 
house, and he was appointed, to the great regret of his enemies, to 
resume his agency at the court of England. 

After having encountered many obstructions on the part of the 
governor and his adherents, he set sail from America in November, 
1764, and in the following month arrived, for the third time, in 
England; where the many friends, whom his former visits to that 
country had procured him, greeted his return with an affectionate 
welcome. After a year's residence in London, profiting by a sus- 
pension in his political business, he made an excursion into Holland 
and Germany, and in the year following to Paris : in which countries, 
even during this rapid perambulation, he formed many useful and 
illustrious acquaintances. In the latter place, especially, where a 
knowledge of his reputation was already extensively circulated, he 
was received with marks of unusual distinction. 

The famous project which the British ministers had formed of 
taxing their colonies, had been communicated by their agents to 
the provincial assembly in 1764, some time before the departure of 
Franklin from America; against this measure he was amongst the 
first and most ardent in proclaiming his opposition; and being at 
this time high in reputation, his influence, we may reasonably sup- 
pose, was not ineffectual in diffusing the same sentiments amongst 
his countrymen. On his arrival in England, he presented a petition 
against the projects of the ministry, of which he had himself been the 
principal instigator, from the Pennsylvania assembly; and whatever 
additional opportunities his situation afforded him, he employed 
with the utmost zeal and industry, to obstruct the further progress 
of this law, from which he anticipated so many unhappy and fatal 

And when the malignant influence of the ministry had carried 
their stamp act into effect, his exertions were not intermitted ; but 
uniting with the minority, he interposed his utmost endeavours 
against it ; first to obviate evil consequences, and finally to procure 
the abrogation of that noxious statute ; and though his efforts were 
insufficient to arrest the headlong torrent by which he was opposed, 
they were at least not ineffectual in diminishing its destructive force 
and rapidity. 


During the violent altercations which arose upon the merits of 
this suhject in parliament, it was proposed by the party in opposi- 
tion, in order to obtain more ample and authentic information con- 
cerning the interests and feelings of the Americans, that Franklin 
should be interrogated publicly before the house of commons. Ac- 
cordingly on the third of February, 1766, he was summoned to 
attend the house for that purpose ; an order which, as it afforded 
him a splendid opportunity of favouring the designs of the opposi- 
tion and the interests of his country, he promptly and cheerfully 
obeyed; and to this expedient the advocates of the repeal were not 
a little indebted for the success of their exertions. Franklin, inde- 
pendent of the weight of his pre-established reputation upon public 
opinion, possessed, in a very eminent degree, all those natural en- 
dowments and acquired abilities, which, in such a conjuncture, would 
render his co-operation honourable and effectual ; besides a dignity 
of appearance, a prompt and sagacious understanding, and a mind 
equally unmoved by the illusions, and undismayed by the insolence 
of power, he had, by the occupations of his life, acquired concerning 
the politics both of America and England, all that minute and ex- 
tensive knowledge, which was especially requisite to the illustration 
of the subject in agitation. 

He contrived, in concert with his friends in the house, to introduce 
upon this occasion, nearly all the important topics of the contro- 
versy ; which he treated with a solidity and acuteness of reasoning, 
a diffusion of knowledge and dignity of manner, that not only ex- 
torted the commendations of his enemies, but exceeded even what 
his friends, in their highest admiration, had conceived of his genius 
and abilities. 

The whole of this examination, being published, was read with 
the greatest avidity both in America and England. In America it 
produced in his favour the liveliest emotions of gratitude; and in 
both countries added greatly to the lustre of his reputation. 

In the part, however, which he took in the first stages of this con- 
tention, it is apparent from the general tenor of his politics, that he 
entertained no further design than that of vindicating the constitu- 
tional liberties of his country; and that no ambition of her indepen- 
dence had at this time entered his imagination. He endeavoured, 
therefore, with the utmost zeal and sincerity, to effect an accommo- 
dation, and employed during his examination, and in all his writings 
and conversations, every argument which he supposed would tend 
to accomplish that honourable purpose. 


When the repeal of the stamp act was accomplished, he continued 
still his endeavours to extinguish the angry passions which had been 
kindled by the operation of that law, and to obtain from the parlia- 
ment a still further abatement of their injurious and offensive regu- 
lations. Various circumstances, however, concurred in rendering 
this, as well as all succeeding efforts of the same nature, unsuc- 
cessful. « 

The resolutions of the town of Boston, published early the next 
year against the importation of foreign merchandise, affecting the 
interests of trade in England, and being devised in opposition to 
the commercial system of the parliament, excited an immoderate 
clamour, and revived the badly extinguished animosities, in both 
countries ; for the enemies of the late repeal not only resumed, 
under the favour of this and other circumstances, their authority in 
the nation, but soon extended their pretensions beyond their former 
bounds ; and representing the Americans as ungovernable and re- 
bellious, growing more insolent and refractory by indulgences, were 
now resolved to exercise no further measures of lenity and conde- 
scension towards them. 

Although the encouragement of useful manufactures was a fa- 
vourite policy of Franklin, with regard to America, having a tendency 
to preserve his country from the corrupting effects of foreign luxuries, 
and to lessen her dependence, he nevertheless observed the resolu- 
tions of the Bostonians, in this critical juncture, with concern; and 
at the same time that he approved their spirit, he considered the 
measure untimely, and tending only to defeat those designs which a 
more gradual and gentle progress might have brought to a happy 
issue. Endeavouring, however, to draw the best consequences from 
a policy he did not approve, he became, in England, its strenuous 
vindicator, and by exhibiting the grievances upon which it was 
founded, strove to counteract the hostility which his adversaries were 
labouring to excite against it. 

But the ministry, from the general strain of his writings and con- 
versations upon this subject, perceived that he was becoming, as 
they expressed it, " rather too much of an American ;" and know- 
ing how considerable an influence he must necessarily exercise over 
the politics of the colonies, they had recourse to flatteries and cor- 
ruption in order to bias his inclinations, and to enlist, if possible, 
his services in favour of the ministerial party. Several individuals 
of high rank in the government began to oxpress an extreme soli- 
citude for his welfare; and spoke with the warmest protestations of 
2d 2 


friendship, of the offices which they had designed to confer upon 
him should he be pleased to remain in England. It was rumored 
that he was to be made secretary of state for the colonies. The 
Duke of Grafton observed "that it should not be his fault if Frank- 
lin was not provided for:" and Lord North, too, "hoped that he 
should find some means to make it worth his while to stay." A few 
oblique threats were at the same time added by others, to give greater 
force to these persuasive insinuations ; and a resolve was even moved 
by Lord Sandwich, to deprive him of the office he then held, of de- 
puty postmaster-general. 

These arts were met by Franklin with the language and conduct 
of a skilful politician. Whilst, on the one hand, he avoided any 
expression which might compromise his honour and reputation with 
regard to his native country, he did not, on the other hand, discourage 
any hopes which these gentlemen might be pleased to entertain of 
his facility or compliance with their wishes. 

His situation was one which required much political address ; for, 
to preserve the opportunity of serving his constituents with effect, 
by maintaining a familiar intercourse with the members of govern- 
ment, while in England, it was necessary that he should appear, at 
least, the common friend of both countries; a policy which required 
a more gentle strain of complaisance and moderation, than corres- 
ponded at that time with the violent passions of his countrymen ; 
and which exposed him sometimes to suspicions of coldness or in- 
fidelity to their interests. He continued, however, under this pacific 
character, conscious that the final determination of the public would 
be in his favour, to vindicate the liberty and honour of his country. 

His answers, in 1769, to Mr. Strahan, to a series of questions 
which were proposed, it is said, by the instigation of the ministry, 
are among the circumstances of this period which deserve to be 
mentioned to his credit. All the grievances of which the colonies 
complained, with the regulations which they deemed essential to the 
security of their liberties, are detailed in these answers, with great 
pregnancy of reason and sentiment, and the consequences of the 
ministerial proceedings foretold, at their conclusion, with a precision 
of foresight which is not a little remarkable. 

Although, to serve more effectually the interests of his country, 
he still kept up these discussions, and maintained some appearance 
of impartiality, it is sufficiently manifest, from the condition of af- 
fairs at this period, that he could have entertained but a faint hope 
of any amicable accommodation. 


When the formation of a general congress was proposed, he was 
among the most active in advising that measure; believing that the 
appearance of such a national confederacy, would give to their cause 
a greater confidence amongst foreign nations, and if obliged at last 
to take up arms in defence of their liberties, would enable them to 
carry on their operations with a greater concert and probability of 

The discovery and publication of Oliver Hutchinson's letters, 
which occurred about this period, (1772,) though highly honourable 
to the memory of Franklin, were attended by a variety of circum- 
stances, which exposed him to the censure and malignity of his 
enemies. These letters of the governor of Massachusetts and his 
deputy, being studiously circulated in England, were at length, by 
some person, wishing to employ his good offices towards both coun- 
tries, conveyed to Franklin; and as they contained many injurious 
representations of the colonies, not only justifying the acts of vio- 
lence which had already been exercised by the ministry, but advising 
a continuation of the same measures; considering it an obligation 
of his office, as agent of the colony, he transmitted them immedi- 
ately to his constituents; hoping thus to transfer from the principal 
parties, their resentment against these intermediate instruments 
whose intrigues had fomented and aggravated the existing dis- 

On the reception of these letters in America, a petition was im- 
mediately transmitted by the assembly of Massachusetts, praying 
from the crown a speedy removal and punishment of such danger- 
ous and unworthy counsellors. 

The manner by which the letters were discovered, for obvious and 
justifiable motives, Franklin had originally concealed; but learning 
that the suspicion had fallen upon an innocent individual, who on 
that account had been implicated in a duel, he immediately pub- 
lished, as far as permitted, his share of the transaction; causing a 
paragraph for that purpose to be inserted in the public journals. 
He was not indeed ignorant that, by leaving the name of the per- 
son who had originally conveyed him the papers, according to his 
plighted faith, in obscurity, he exposed himself to the malicious 
imputations of his enemies. He performed the task, however, with- 
out hesitation; suffering no considerations of this nature to prevail 
over what he conceived to be for his own honour and the interests 
of his country. 

At the meeting of parliament, the petition which he had received 


from the assembly, he presented to the ministry; expressing his 
desire that an occasion so favourable should not be unimproved, of 
appeasing those dissatisfactions which had been so mischievously 
fomented between England and her colonies. But the ministers, 
more intent upon personal interest than upon measures of policy, 
which might promote the honour and advantage of their country, 
had resolved to make use of this convenient opportunity, of exciting 
a clamour against the Americans, and of bringing into disreputa- 
tion their importunate agent; knowing that any story to his disad- 
vantage would easily find credit amongst the zealots of their party. 
The petition was, therefore, set aside for several months, and in the 
mean time many insidious slanders were, by their malicious indus- 
try, put in circulation against him. And although these very men 
were at this time in possession of the most important correspon- 
dence of Franklin, transmitted by their secret agents from America, 
the promulgation of these letters of Hutchinson they represented as 
a most treacherous and disgraceful transaction ; and the press was 
employed to emblazon the story and proclaim its infamy to the 
whole world. Trusting, however, that the general tenor of his 
actions would, in the end, prove a sufficient apology for his conduct, 
he made no direct refutation of their slander; but continued, with- 
out any reference to personal abuse, to exert his ability in defend- 
ing the interests of his country, and in obstructing, in his usual 
manner, the measures of the administration. Of the political essays 
which he published at this time, several pieces, from the excellent 
wit and sarcasm with which they abound, are yet read with interest, 
and have been preserved in the various compilations of his writings. 
The merits of the petition came, at length, to be discussed on the 
twentieth of January, 1774, before the privy council, and Franklin, 
as agent of the colony, was ordered to appear before that assembly. 
Here, his enemies, to gratify their ungenerous animosity, designed 
to consummate the many acts by which they had attempted to blast 
his reputation, by a personal and public insult. They were attended 
by a large concourse of spectators, who had been invited to partake 
of the edifying spectacle; and a Mr. Wedderburne, a gentleman who 
appears to have been, both by natural endowments and acquired 
abilities, well qualified for such an office, was appointed to act as 
counsel for the governor and his accomplices. He had become, by 
long experience in forensic litigation, extremely expert in the dialect 
of scurrility, and had surmounted all that sense of shame which re- 
strains men of honour within the limits of propriety and decency. 


The orator lost no time in arguments for his nominal clients, but 
turning- at once upon Franklin, who sat in unsuspecting security, 
poured upon him the full torrent of his vulgar and abusive rhetoric. 
A coward, a murderer, a thief, arc a few of the terms which he 
employed upon him. And these gentle appellations, he so seasoned 
with sallies of wit and sarcasm, as excited universal amusement, 
and kept every visage of this grave assembly in a state of perpetual 
irrision. The president on one occasion laughed aloud; and the 
contagious joy spreading through the multitude, the whole scene was 
concluded, it is said, with great acclamation and obstreperous mer- 
riment. It is recorded, indeed, to the great honour of Lord North, 
that he alone expressed no approbation of these proceedings; which 
may be remarked as not the least powerful evidence of their ex- 
treme indecency and impropriety. 

Franklin, during the whole of this outrage, looked on with an 
unaltered countenance; suffering neither the obloquy of Wedder- 
burne, nor the sneers of the illustrious audience, by any apparent 
symptoms, to molest his tranquillity; so that not only his enemies 
were disappointed in their anticipated victory, but, by throwing a 
new lustre upon his virtues, contributed essentially to extend his 
reputation. There are few incidents that, in the lives of great men, 
convey a more exalted opinion of their superiority, or inspire a more 
lasting veneration for their characters, than that of supporting the 
insults of power with dignity and composure. To the friends who 
came to salute him, at the conclusion of this adventure, he expressed 
only his surprise, that in the supreme council of a nation, once so 
reputed for wisdom and generosity, there should be entertained so 
vulgar a sense of propriety and decorum. 

The whole of this transaction, when we reflect upon the various 
circumstances which attended it, and especially upon the venerable 
age of the man who was the object of such opprobrious treatment, 
and upon the numerous benefits which his virtues and genius had 
conferred upon mankind, cannot be sufficiently detested. 

The animosity of his enemies was, however, not yet appeased. 
To gratify still further their illiberal malice, they removed him from 
the office, which he had a long time filled with honour and abilities, 
of deputy postmaster-general ; they interrupted the payment of his 
salary, which he had heretofore .received in England, as agent of 
the colonies; and finally, they instituted against him a suit in chan- 
cery concerning the above-mentioned letters of Hutchinson ; which 
latter expedient they contrived, it is said, to prevent any discussion 


he might be disposed to attempt in relation to that subject. This 
was, however, a nugatory precaution; for of these personal injuries 
lie had resolved to make no account; sensible that the universal 
reproach which they had incurred by their indecent management of 
the whole business, would afford him, in the minds of all reasonable 
men, a sufficient vindication. But the events of this period, though 
he thought proper to dissemble his resentment against their authors 
and contrivers, it is evident, from the tenor of his future conduct, 
made a deep and lasting impression upon his feelings. During the 
remainder of his residence in England, he absented himself from 
the ministerial levees; and wrote on his passage to America, a 
minute and circumstantial detail of these transactions, which has 
been introduced by his grandson in continuation of his Memoirs. 

The friends of Franklin, ashamed of the ill usage he had received, 
and sensible how inappropriate it was to his age, merits, and cha- 
racter, now treated him with increased attention and civility. Even 
his enemies, perceiving that their ungenerous persecutions had turn- 
ed the public favour on his side; in alleviation of the dishonour they 
had incurred, made advances of politeness towards him : and very 
few, however rancorous the antipathy they bore him, were willing 
to acknowledge any concurrence in a transaction, which had proved 
so dishonourable to the authors of it. Conscious of the great influ- 
ence which Franklin maintained over the measures and counsels of 
the colonies, they set themselves to court his favour. A communi- 
cation was sought for this purpose through the medium of common 
friends; to which, as it afforded him an opportunity of discovering 
their pretensions, and of urging the rights of his countrymen, be 
willingly acceded. Many conferences were held, and many weeks 
of continual and laborious application, spent in discussing the in- 
terests of each party, and in drawing up such a plan of conciliation, 
to be presented to the ministry, as it was supposed would prove 
acceptable to their wishes, and if not accomplish an immediate re- 
conciliation, tend to soften at least the animosities of both countries, 
which the rancour of controversy had now so greatly inflamed. 

The persons employed on this occasion were very judiciously se- 
lected ; Mr. Berkley, Dr. Fothergill, Governor Pownal, Lord Hyde, 
and Lord Howe ; men of moderate politics, and with all parties, of 
the highest estimation and authority. The house of Mrs. Howe, 
sister to the latter nobleman, and a lady, according to the account 
of Franklin, of uncommon merit and accomplishments, was the 
place of their meetings ; she courted the visits of Franklin by an in- 


vitation to chess, a game for which she heard of his partiality ; during 
which, she commended his skill and entertained him with very inti- 
mate discourses upon science, politics and philosophy. Her brother 
then, and his colleagues, conducted their plans with much ingenuity. 
The doctor declaimed pathetically of civil wars, and of the efforts 
and sacrifices that ought to be made to obviate their calamities. 
Lord Howe, especially, expressed, for the abilities of Franklin, the 
greatest deference, and desired that he would accompany him as 
his secretary, or as a friend and counsellor, to America, where he 
was about to proceed under commission of the administration ; as- 
suring him that he might expect the most generous and ample em- 
ployments, should an accommodation be effected by their mutual 
exertions, suitable to the dignity of the British government. He 
offered, likewise, to procure him the immediate payment of his 
salary, which had been suspended, and begged that the ministry 
might be allowed the present opportunity of testifying their favour- 
able dispositions towards him. The same magnificent promises 
were reiterated, in an interview with Lord Hyde, who assured him 
that, by co-operating with the ministers, he would not only be ho- 
noured in England, but "rewarded perhaps beyond his expecta- 
tion." These arts were extremely plausible, and the more danger- 
ous, as they were disguised under the mask of benevolence and 
friendship. But Franklin had now grown old and wise in the know- 
ledge of mankind, and was no longer plastic under the hands of 

To the overtures of these noblemen, he made, however, such re- 
plies as corresponded to the occasion ; as were required by his own 
dignity and the relations he bore towards them. One of the ruling 
maxims of his life, was to live, as far as possible, in good terms 
with the world, and by honourable condescensions and mildness, 
rather to diminish the number of his enemies, than aggravate their 
animosity, by any display of passion or reciprocation of injuries. To 
Mr. Berkley, however, with whom he had lived on terms of intimacy, 
and could use an unceremonious discourse, who likewise importuned 
him with the same topics of pensions, places and emoluments, he 
replied, that the ministry, in his opinion, would give him a place in 
a cart to Tyburn, rather than any other at their disposal. 

The arguments and sentiments used during this conference, have 
been detailed by Franklin in his Memoirs ; and as regards either 
capacity or patriotism, are highly honourable to his memory. He 
drew up, at the request of the ministerial agents, a project in writing, 


in which he comprehended all the essential injuries of which the 
Americans complained, and the principles upon which alone an ac- 
commodation could be effected ; introducing such reflections and 
Llustrations as were required by the interests of the discussion. 

These negotiations, which had been prolonged by both parties, 
perhaps with no further design than that of discovering the extent 
of each other's pretensions, were at length ended, by the arrival 
from America, of the transactions of the first congress; which caused 
much excitement in England, and now furnished new subjects of 
debate and speculation. 

On the first of January, 1775, Lord Chatham introduced into the 
house of lords, his celebrated plan of conciliation, on the subject 
of which he had sought with Franklin frequent and public inter- 
views. He professed great esteem for his character, and, in the 
affairs of America, the highest deference for his advice and opinions. 
" I pay you these visits," said he, "that I may rectify my judgment 
by yours, as men do their watches by a regulator." 

Lord Chatham, having explained and supported his motion, was 
followed in reply by Lord Sandwich; who, in the course of a very 
passionate harangue, declared that this motion of Chatham's was 
disgraceful to his name, and should be rejected with contempt; that 
he did not believe it to be the production of any British peer; and 
added, turning towards Franklin, who leaned upon the bar, "I fancy 
I have in my eye the person who drew it up : one of the bitterest 
and most mischievous enemies that this country has ever known." 
Under this allusion, so severe and offensive, although it drew upon 
him the observation of the whole assembly, Franklin remained, as 
if unconscious of the application, with a composed and unaverted 
aspect ; or to use his own expression in relating this story, " as if his 
countenance had been made of wood." Chatham replied that were 
he the first minister of the country, he should not be ashamed to 
call publicly to his assistance, a person so eminently acquainted with 
American affairs, as the gentleman alluded to, and so ungenerously 
reflected on; "one," he added, " whom all Europe holds in the 
highest estimation, for his knowledge and wisdom ; whom she ranks 
with her Boyles and her Newtons ; who is an honour, not to the 
English nation only, but to human nature." 

Franklin now perceived that the contention had reached to a crisis 
when his presence was no longer necessary in England ; and that 
the government had resolved to prosecute their measures of violence, 
against the colonies, to the last extremity. He prepared, therefore, 


for his return to America, that lie might aid his countrymen by his 
counsels, in the prosecution of the war which he saw approaching. 
Other circumstances also occurred which tended to hasten his de- 
parture : he received intelligence about this time, that his residence 
in England was no longer secure; that the ministers were preparing 
his arrest, either that they might detain him in captivity, or inflict 
an exemplary punishment upon him as the promoter of rebellion : 
nor had he great reason to suppose that they, who had so grossly 
outraged the principles of generosity towards him, in gratifying their 
malevolence, would feel a very scrupulous regard for the sacredncss 
or formalities of justice. 

On his voyage homewards, to relieve his mind from the fatigues 
of business, he employed himself in philosophical speculations, and 
made some of those ingenious experiments which are found among 
his writings, on the waters of the ocean. Ho wrote, also, a circum- 
stantial detail of the whole of his public operations during his ab- 

This portion of his history should not be concluded without adding 
to it, the following remarks of Dr. Priestley. " It is probable," says 
he in his Memoirs, "that no man now living was better acquainted 
with Dr. Franklin and his sentiments, on all subjects of importance, 
than myself, for several years of the American war. He took every 
method in his power to prevent a rupture between the colonies and 
the mother country. He dreaded the war, and often said, that if 
the differences should come to an open rupture, it would be a war 
of ten years. That the issue would be favourable to America, he 
never doubted. The English, he used to say, may take all our great 
towns, but that will not give them possession of the country. By 
many persons, Franklin was considered as so callous, that the pros- 
pect of all the horrors of a civil war would not affect him: this was 
far from being the case. A great part of the last day that he passed 
in England, we spent alone together. He was looking over a num- 
ber of American newspapers, directing me what to extract for the 
English ones ; and in reading them, he was frequently not able to 
proceed for the tears literally running down his checks. To stran- 
gers he appeared cold and reserved; but where he was intimate, 
no man indulged more in pleasantry and good humour. By this, 
he was the delight of a club to which he alludes in one of his letters 
to me, called the Whig Club, of which Dr. Price, Dr. Kippis, and 
others of the same stamp, were members." 

He arrived in the beginning of May, 1775, in Philadelphia, and 


was received with all those marks of esteem and affection, which 
his eminent services merited. His zealous exertions for the welfare 
of his country, which had^ already drawn upon him the warmest a]) 
plauses, now opened his way to the highest honours of the state. 
Immediately on his arrival, he was elected by the legislature a de- 
legate to the general congress ; to which he added, in the opinions 
of all men, a new lustre and authority; and although advanced be- 
yond the vigour of life, he shared in its most important toils with 
incessant activity. He was the chief instrument in procuring the 
issue of the paper money employed in the expenses of the war; he 
projected a chevaux de frize for the protection of Philadelphia, then 
the residence of congress ; and by that body was sent on a mission 
to Canada to solicit the co-operation of that province with the gene- 
ral confederacy. With these labours, he managed also the duties 
of the general post-office, at the head of which he had been placed 
by congress; and finally, in procuring the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, he contributed his endeavours with the utmost zeal and ap- 
plication; nor can we ascribe to his authority and exertions a small 
share in the accomplishment of that auspicious and glorious resolu- 
tion ; for besides the general influence of his reputation and abilities, 
the intimate intelligence, which a clear inspection of the designs of 
the British cabinet was supposed to have procured him, caused his 
opinions and arguments to be relied on, in the discussion of the 
measure, with much favour and condescension. 

Amongst the inhabitants of the colonies, there were many who, 
though passionately devoted to the cause of liberty, fearing that 
their strength might prove insufficient to achieve and maintain their 
independence, were yet irresolute; and some who believed that 
their grievances, though violent, were not sufficiently aggravated to 
authorize a general rebellion, and who still entertained a hope that 
some amicable composition of their differences might yet be effected. 
Franklin, whose experience had forced him into the conviction that 
the quarrel must now proceed to extremities, endeavoured early to 
dissipate these delusive and dangerous opinions. On the other 
hand, he strove, in the various letters which at this time he wrote 
to England, to impress the belief, not very common with their best 
friends in that country, of the unanimity of the colonies, and their 
resolution of resorting to arms in defence of their violated liberties. 
By the following extract of a letter to Dr. Priestley, we shall see 
the general strain of his correspondence: "Britain, I conclude, has 
lost her colonies for ever. She is now giving us such a miserable; 


specimen of her government, that we shall ever detest and avoid it 
as a complication of robbery, murder and pestilence. If you flatter 
yourself with beating us into submission, you know neither the 
people nor the country. You will have heard before this reaches 
you, of the defeat of your troops, by the country people of Lexing- 
ton; of the action of Bunker's Hill, <fcc. Britain, at the expense 
of three millions, has killed one hundred and fifty Yankees, this 
campaign. During the same time, sixty thousand children have 
been born. From these data the mathematical head of our dear 
good friend Dr. Price will easily calculate the time and expense 
that may be necessary to kill us all. Tell him, as he has sometimes 
doubts and despondencies about our firmness, that America is de- 
termined and unanimous." 

No sooner had the English troops landed upon the territory of the 
colonies, than, as if exempted from all the ordinary restraints of 
humanity, or believing that any mer